"The growth in healthcare jobs is a sign that that part of our economy is growing larger than we can handle, and while it is great for everyone who has those jobs, paying for healthcare shifts tax dollars or it comes out of healthcare premiums, which come from our salaries, and so that's not good news. It's not just the government that is paying for healthcare. About half of healthcare spending is non-governmental, so it is coming out of paychecks and it's money that we could be spending on other things or that we could be saving for retirement."
Nicole Smith, chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says few sectors of the economy can match healthcare when it comes to long-term job growth.
"For this long and this many jobs the only thing close is education," Smith says. "The two sectors have a very peculiar commonality. They are also two of the least-productive sectors of the economy. If we define productivity as gross output per person employed, and we view both of these sectors as requiring heavy human input… we have this dubious correlation between the lower productivity levels of these two sectors that are also growing fast in terms of jobs created."
The low productivity may be a function of the work required of healthcare providers and educators. "They work with people and people don't necessarily move like machines," Smith says. "It means you don't necessarily get the economies of scale and outputs in a generic fashion in the way you can with models for producing things and products."
"We have created a very complex system of healthcare provision that is still inefficient, and that is still costly, but it is a function that is highly determined by demographics."
Smith cautions that one of the fastest job growth areas within healthcare is for nursing aides and other relatively low-paying fields. "It's less wages, less opportunity, less upward mobility. It's difficult to move from being a nurse's aide to becoming a nurse," she says.
"We don't want to create these end-of-the-road healthcare support jobs if they're a dead-end for some people. We want to make sure that pathways are developed so they can move forward."
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.