Here’s some good economic news for a change. One sector of our economy keeps pumping out jobs. You may have guessed, it’s health care.
The health care industry added 31,300 jobs in July for the biggest monthly jump since 2007. Over the past year, it has added 298,000. That’s an expansion rate of 2%. (Click here for a table with all the numbers as reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Where were these jobs? Hospitals added the most - 14,000. They now employ 74,800 more people than a year ago. Workers were also added in doctors’ offices - 6,300, and in home health agencies - 3,100.
Health care employment has been expanding for awhile. It now accounts for over 10% of all nonfarm jobs. It has continued to grow throughout the recession. Experts see it as the largest source of job growth over the next several decades.
Why does health care keep adding so many jobs? Mostly because we keep using more and more of it. To meet our demand, the amount of services offered and the number of providers offering them keep growing.
But, someone has to pay for it. In the end, that someone is all of us. Health care job growth is a major reason that costs keep rising so steeply. We pay the price in higher insurance premiums and increased government spending for programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Which raises an interesting question. If health care programs were to be significantly cut, might job growth shrink along with it?
The answer is probably yes. Which could spell trouble for our hopes, tenuous as they may be, for a recovery in the job market.
This is not to say that health care costs should be left to skyrocket out of control. If nothing is done, private insurance premiums could become unaffordable and Medicare and Medicaid could sink the federal budget.
However, it is to say that cutting should be done carefully. We don’t want to stifle one of the strongest job-creating engines we have.
Like all cuts, those to health care will require trade-offs. These may involve more than meets the eye. Health care programs, both public and private, protect more than our physical health. Without fully realizing it, we have come to rely on them for a good measure of our economic health, as well.
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