A Truly Astonishing Graph of the Growth of Health-Care Jobs in America

Since 2003, the U.S. health care sector has grown more than ten-times faster than the rest of the economy

Well, this caught my attention:

Employment Growth in Healthcare Industries

Here's what that graph (via Brookings) says. In the last ten years, job growth in America's non-health-care economy has been dreadful. Just 2.1 percent total -- or barely 0.2 percent per year. (Yes, that's point-two percent annual growth.) In that time, the U.S. health care sector has grown more than ten-times faster than the rest of the economy, adding 2.6 million jobs.

There are a couple stories that branch off from this graph. One is the unchecked growth in health care prices over the last few decades, which has made the medical industry the one truly recession-proof job engine of the economy. Two is the concentration of job growth in local service industries shielded from the global supply chain. And three (related) is the sad decline in construction and manufacturing jobs.

Let's pull back the lens to 1990 and take a picture. Take a look at the growth of health care employment (in red) and the decline in construction and manufacturing employment (in blue).

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 3.25.57 PM.png

According to the BLS, the two fastest-growing jobs in the next decade -- by far -- will both be in health care: personal care aides and home health aides.

I'd prefer not to muddy a clear statistical observation here with a provocative claim that health care's relentless, unstoppable employment growth is a good thing or a bad thing, exclusively, because it's certainly both -- an emergency source of recession-era employment and a symptom of health care inflation. I knew health care had been the most important driver of national employment over the last few years, but I had never seen the case made so starkly.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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