As healthcare jobs grow, economists worry

While national unemployment stayed flat at 7.6 percent last month, healthcare employed a seasonally adjusted 14,568,000 individuals, 19,800 more workers than in May, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released Friday.

Ambulatory services contributed most of the job gains, adding 12,600 jobs in June. And hospitals employed 4,500 more workers than last month, following a 5,900 drop in May.

The BLS employment figures come as a new Brookings Institution report suggests the Great Recession would have been worse without significant job growth from the healthcare sector. Moreover, the researchers said healthcare's continued expansion is helping fuel the economic recovery.

However, some economists warn that having healthcare employ a large proportion of workers may signal concerns, reported the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

"The health care industry is not meant to be a jobs program," Amitabh Chandra, a Harvard University health economist, told the newspaper. "It is meant to be an industry that improves people's health."

In fact, Chandra's research last June in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded healthcare job growth diverts funds for education, infrastructure, food, shelter and retirement savings, the Journal Sentinel noted.

Chandra and another Harvard economist argued that rising healthcare employment doesn't guarantee better health and economic productivity, so the industry should focus its attention on what we get for healthcare spending, not healthcare jobs, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the BLS data (.pdf)
- check out the Brookings report (.pdf)
- read the Journal Sentinel article