This is Joshua Wehner's archaic Blog

It's the economy, stupid

Hidden in the intro to this BusinessWeek article — ostensibly about the health-care industry — is an jaw-dropping nugget of information. See if you find it:

If you really want to understand what makes the U.S. economy tick these days, don't go to Silicon Valley, Wall Street, or Washington. Just take a short trip to your local hospital. Park where you don't block the ambulances, and watch the unending flow of doctors, nurses, technicians, and support personnel. You'll have a front-row seat at the health-care economy.

For years, everyone from politicians on both sides of the aisle to corporate execs to your Aunt Tilly have justifiably bemoaned American health care — the out-of-control costs, the vast inefficiencies, the lack of access, and the often inexplicable blunders.

But the very real problems with the health-care system mask a simple fact: Without it the nation's labor market would be in a deep coma. Since 2001, 1.7 million new jobs have been added in the health-care sector, which includes related industries such as pharmaceuticals and health insurance. Meanwhile, the number of private-sector jobs outside of health care is no higher than it was five years ago.

Did you catch it? Here, let me highlight it for you:

the number of private-sector jobs outside of health care is no higher than it was five years ago

Or, phrase it the other way around:

the only sector that produced any net new jobs in the U.S. economy between 2001 and 2006 was health care

For even more mind-boggling details, read the latest installment in CJR's series on the looming general election, which links a number of reports on the state of the US economy.

Shorter version: it's much, much worse than I thought.

Permalink • Posted in: 2008 election, econ, journalism