Amid the overload of economic doom and gloom, one subset of the workforce seems to be fairing rather well: online freelancers whose services range from graphic design to business writing.

In a country where unemployment continues to hover above 9 percent, it’s no surprise that demand for these contract workers is up more than 61 percent from a year ago, according to data from Elance, the largest online marketplace for this type of work.

“This new way of working has a lot of momentum and is continuing to grow,” said Ved Sinha, VP of interactive marketing for Mountain View, California-based Elance. “Small businesses are increasingly turning to online work because it’s more flexible.

“You get access to talent and someone that may not be in your local area,” he added. “You also get speed – you can hire someone very quickly. Not the least, it’s very cost effective.”

Among the most highly prized skills are infographics, which help companies to raise their profile using social media, Sinha said. Also popular were programmers with an understanding of WordPress, the online platform that facilitates blogging; and developers with skills in the development of Android and iPhone apps.