HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

Can the Bureau of Labor Statistics Predict America’s Appetite For Change?

Posted on | March 10, 2021 | No Comments

Mike Magee

This past month we added 379,000 jobs and Wall Street blushed. But the fact remains that there are 9.5 million fewer jobs in our economy compared to a year ago, and first-time jobless claims rose last week. As former Federal Reserve economist Julia Coronado reported, “We’re still in a pandemic economy.”

Pre-pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 3.7% growth for the coming decade. The newest update downgraded that to 1.9% if the pandemic impact is “strong”, and 2.9% if it is “moderate.” Even without this biological tragedy, permanent changes in the job market had been forecast including more remote work, higher tech service demands, further declines in travel and entertainment, and greater investment in public health and health services.

The 2019 study did a deep dive for hundreds of detailed occupations over the next decade. The largest declines, as you might expect, were projected in transportation, travel and hospitality. Hidden deeper were signs of a changing world order – like the fact that if you are a computer savvy teen with only a high school education, your likely employment in the future will be in software development, not as a cashier.

How good are these projections? It depends on who is doing the forecasts and what are the assumptions. For example, if the health care status quo persists in America, chasing cures and tolerating inequities, a prediction that the largest increases post-pandemic will be in the medical, health-science and technology fields is a pretty safe bet.

The sector is also America’s dominant employer. But at the same time, many of these jobs deliver zero benefits when it comes to patient care. In fact, there are 16 health care jobs for every one physician, and 8 of these 16 are non-clinical.

A shift to a centralized health insurance system, while preserving local choice and autonomy over care delivery, would carry estimated savings of up to $1 trillion off of our nearly $4 trillion annual health care expenditure. Of course that means many insurance agents, coders, billers, and data specialists would lose their jobs. What would become of them?

Likely they would follow the money. But how might that $1 trillion be best spent? The best answer was embedded in the startling fact that the U.S. is the only developed nation that spends more on health care than all other social services combined. These services – including housing, education, transportation, environmental protection, sanitation, safety and security –are all proven determinants of health.

Advancing health and wellness requires physical and technologic infrastructure. Once built, the physical and human scaffolding must be managed and maintained. Translation: jobs, jobs, jobs.

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