Healthcare becomes largest US employer: 6 takeaways

In the last quarter, the healthcare industry surpassed manufacturing and retail for the first time in history to become the nation's largest employer, according to The Atlantic.

Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic, explored reasons for the boom in healthcare jobs, from the nation's aging population to the healthcare industry's enduring resistance to the technological forces that continue to harm the manufacturing and retail industries.

Here are six takeaways from the analysis.

1. There were 7 million more workers in manufacturing than in healthcare in 2000. In 2007, at the start of the Great Recession, there were 2.4 million more workers in retail than in healthcare. In 2017, the number of workers in healthcare surpassed workers in both manufacturing and retail.

2. The nation's aging population is a large driver of the healthcare job boom. By 2025, a quarter of the workforce will be older than 55. As a result, more and more Americans will require care and the healthcare industry will need more workers.

3. Much of healthcare is publicly subsidized through money spent on Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare benefits for government employees and private insurance. Therefore, healthcare employment remains strong, even during the country's worst economic downturns. During the Great Recession, healthcare employment increased each month.

4. Healthcare is resistant to globalization and automation, two forces that have harmed manufacturing and retail employment in recent decades. Although artificial intelligence and programmable robots may be able to replace radiologists and surgeons in the future, healthcare technology has not reached that point yet.

5. The majority of new healthcare jobs are not in clinical roles, but are in administrative and management positions, such as receptionists and office clerks.

6. Five of the 10 jobs that will see the fastest growth in the next decade are in healthcare and elderly assistance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The two fastest-growing occupations are personal care aides and home health aides, which are projected to account for one in every 10 new jobs in the next decade. Additionally, the healthcare sector as a whole is projected to account for a third of all new employment.

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