Our health-care productivity problem, in one chart

Sarah Kliff:

For months now, the health sector has led the economy in job creation, producing more than 300,000 more jobs since this time last year. Even as overall job creation sputtered last month, the health sector added 44,000 new positions.

But health-care job growth isn’t necessarily a good thing, at least when it comes to controlling our skyrocketing health costs. More health-care jobs mean more health-care spending, the opposite of what most health policy wonks want to see happen.

A New England Journal of Medicine article this morning really gets at this tension, between the good of job creation and bad of growing health costs. It suggests that a key driver behind our health-care job growth is a decline in productivity. We’re adding more workers, the article argues, because, in the aggregate, each health-care worker is doing less. And that’s the opposite of every other industry sector that’s growing right now. Take a look: