I am not an economist, so I don't make any claims of expertise on all the ins and outs of what makes our great nation tick financially.

I do know, however, that I can't find a painter to paint my house. No -- strike that. I can't find a painter to even return a phone call. Ditto vinyl siding contractors, landscapers and roofers. 

One contractor I noticed filling up his company truck at a gas station told me he was booked until April 2005 after I asked him for a card. April 2005? 

Simply put, contractors (search) are too busy with existing jobs to bother with new business. 

In fact, after calling more than 11 listed contractors within a 25-mile radius of my home for estimates on painting, siding and roofing, only one bothered to show up.

Are these the signs of a bad economy?

Interest rates (search) are at 45-year lows. That means homeowners are refinancing (search) at record numbers, leaving thousands flush with cash for home repairs and renovations. And apparently, based on my experience trying to hire contractors, they're doing so. 

So with the jobless rate (search) hitting a nine-year high last month, dare I ask: Where are all of the entrepeneurs (search)?

In the 1996 best-seller The Millionaire Next Door (search), the authors found that the majority of America's millionaires are self-employed persons working primarily in some kind of service industry (search), like construction, landscaping or auto repair.

And just last week a report issued by the Institute for Supply Management (search) stated the service industry is growing faster than expected.

"The industries reporting the highest rates of growth in Employment in June are: Real Estate, Transportation; Construction; Retail Trade; Wholesale Trade; and Other Services," the report said.

All of these facts lead me to believe there are jobs out there, even temporary ones, for men and women who find themselves laid off from their regular careers.

So if you happen to be handy, putting a work-for-hire ad in your local paper as a painter or other home-improvement worker may be your ticket to financial freedom.

I understand manual labor may not be for everyone, but that shouldn't stop you from taking advantage of the home improvement market. Think about your strengths and figure out a way to cash in. 

Are you a good communicator? By simply returning a phone call, you're already ahead of most of your competitors. Perhaps you can outsource whatever work that you may procure to a qualified builder or specialist with whom you can partner.

However, if you are a weekend warrior whose television is locked on the Do It Yourself or HGTV (search) networks, perhaps you can take what you know out on the road.

Look, being unemployed in this, or any economy, is not fun. But sitting around thinking "woe is me" is not going to make matters any better, for you or your family. 

You can make it if you pay attention to the market trends, and by taking advantage of the opportunities that are out there.

As for me (and after many trips to Home Depot [search], which, incidentally, was the sole contractor that did provide estimates and good customer service at our home), my wife and I are doing all the work ourselves.

Mike Straka is the project manager for FOX News' Internet operations and contributes as a features reporter and producer on FOX Magazine (Sundays 11 p.m. on FNC) and as a reporter and columnist for Foxnews.com. 

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