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Report: Job Growth in Health Care Industry Fuels Economic Recovery

July 5, 2013

In the recent years of economic recovery, many have complained about insufficient job growth. A recent report shows, however, that this is definitely not the case for the health care industry.

According to a Brookings Institution report, the health care industry has added 2.6 million jobs nationwide over the past 10 years. This increase in health care jobs equates to a 22.7 percent employment growth rate for the industry, which is significantly higher than the 2.1 percent rate for all other industries in the last decade. Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., at least one in every 10 employees works in the health care industry. A high concentration of related jobs is seen in the Northeast and industrial Midwest, as well as in areas of Florida where many seniors live.

The StarTribune reported that the health care field has expanded so much in Minneapolis-St. Paul that Minnesota has almost recovered all the jobs it lost during the recession. Other local industries such as manufacturing and construction, however, continue to suffer.

"There's a long-term trend of job growth in the health care industry that you don't see in other sectors of the economy," said Martha Ross, lead researcher on the report, in the StarTribune. "They're now taking up a bigger share of the employment pie, and that's happening in some cases because other parts of the pie are shrinking."

The Brookings report also highlighted that wages for health care employees vary greatly by specific occupation and metro area. When it comes to occupational distribution, however, there is not much difference across the country. The study examined employees in the industry across the 100 largest metro areas, with these findings: On average, health care practitioners make up 3.5 percent, health care technologists -- such as sonographers -- account for 2 percent, and health care support workers like nursing aides represent 2.9 percent.

Though this growth in employment seems like a good thing, the National Journal pointed out that it could be a symptom of rising health care spending. The Brookings report did not determine what was fueling the growth, but the National Journal suggested it would not be far-fetched to assume it reflects health care inflation.

"Because health care is a labor-intensive industry, when health care spending grows, jobs in health care grow," explained Mark Pauly, a professor specializing in health policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, in the National Journal.

This is worrisome as rising costs are not sustainable, noted the National Journal, and as policies such as the Affordable Care Act aim to lower costs, health care employment growth could slow down as a result.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

"Beware the Jobs Recovery," nationaljournal.com, July 1, 2013, Niraj Chokshi

"Healthcare Metro Monitor Supplement," brookings.edu, July 1, 2013, Martha Ross and Siddharth Kulkarni

"Study: Health care industry helps drive U.S. economic recovery," startribune.com, July 2, 2013, Jackie Crosby

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