As the overall economy loafs in the doldrums, a few sectors are actually growing--some at impressive paces. Here are 10, ranging from nationwide to niche, that offer more opportunity than most.

  1. Services: This sector, which makes up more than half the total U.S. economy, is on the rise, as indicated by the increase in the ISM Nonmanufacturing Index from November's all-time low of 37.6 percent to December's 40.3 percent.
  2. Discount stores: Low prices are leading to higher sales for the nation's discounters. Shares in the likes of Family Dollar and Wal-Mart have risen about as fast as the rest of the stock market has fallen over the past year, reflecting increased earnings and better-than-average prospects.
  3. Fast food: Quick-service restaurants such as McDonald's--where monthly sales rose nearly 8 percent in November--are looking better and better to cash-strapped consumers choosing them over pricier casual eateries.
  4. Secondhand goods: Pre-owned is fine to consumers looking for a deal, as shown by a 19 percent earnings increase for Winmark Corp. in last year's otherwise dreary third quarter for retailers.
  5. Medical office buildings: A growing market in real estate? You bet, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, which sees an aging population's health-care needs fueling demand for medical office buildings, especially out West.
  6. Netbooks: Ten million of these tiny notebook computers, priced between $300 and $500, were sold last year, up from hundreds of thousands in 2007. New models that boot faster and run longer on batteries could boost sales further.
  7. Education and health services: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that employment in these sectors will grow more than any other, adding nearly 5.5 million jobs from 2006 to 2016.
  8. Social networking: Just four months after enrolling its 100 millionth user, Facebook reached 150 million users in January. At that rate, it could top 200 million as you read this.
  9. 3-D: Once derided as a goofy gimmick, 3-D pictures are technologically much improved, and content is expanding rapidly. This year's BCS Championship football game was broadcast in 3-D--a first.
  10. Savings: U.S. personal savings as a percent of disposable income rose from 0 percent in early 2008 to 2.8 percent by year-end. Sales of related goods, from home safes to piggy banks, are also up.