Here’s the latest example of how completely weird the CCP Virus has made the U.S. economy, and it’s been confirmed by the latest official monthly jobs report (for September): The pandemic and its various knock-on effects have put a real crimp in hiring in the nation’s healthcare sector, which has been an American employment creation superstar literally for decades.
This period has also seen a reversal in the rise of what I’ve called the subsidized private sector (which is dominated employment-wise by the healthcare services industry, and whose employment levels depend largely on politicians’ decisions, not market forces) in the national employment picture at the expense of the remaining “real” private sector. This shift to date has been small but it’s genuinely historic given how quickly it’s emerged, and given the duration and power of the prior subsidized private sector (SPS) surge.
Regarding recent weakness in hiring in healthcare services and its fellow SPS industries (social services and the for-profit educational institutions), the September jobs report was startling enough. Payrolls in this entire complex fell on-month by 7,000 and in healthcare, the dropoff was 17,500.
Want to know how often that happens? Data are available for the whole SPS sector going back to 1939, and the answer is 45 times leaving out the World War II years. And since then, through September, 936 non-World War II months have passed. So we’re talking 4.81 percent of the time.
Not surprisingly, sequential SPS hiring decreases have been even less frequent since government got into civilian healthcare provision in 1966 with the beginning of Medicare and Medicaid coverage. Since then, 657 months have come and gone, and SPS jobs have declined in 26, or 3.96 percent of them.
But here’s the kicker. Of those 26, five have taken place during the pandemic period (in March, April, and December, 2020, and in this January and September – whose results so far are preliminary).
For healthcare employment alone, the official numbers begin only in 1990, but the picture they draw is even starker. Since then, 369 months have passed, and employment in this sector has fallen on month in eight of them – or 2.17 percent of the time. And five of those eight occasions have occurred during the CCP Virus period (March and April, 2020, and this January, June, and September.
Moreover, as indicated above, the pandemic has produced a major change in the role played by the SPS in U.S. job creation. Between the mid-2009 beginning of the economic recovery from the Great Recession that followed the global financial crisis and the last pre-pandemic data month (February, 2020), the SPS’ share of all U.S. jobs rose from 14.97 percent to 16.37 percent, and the SPS’ share of real private sector employment climbed from 22.08 percent to 23.84 percent.
But since then, through September, the SPS share of all U.S. jobs retreated to 16.04 percent, and of “real” private sector jobs to 23.22 percent.
What’s it all mean for the economy? It’s complicated. The downside is that so many of the subsidized private sector jobs, especially in healthcare services, are urgently needed for the nation’s overall well-being and particularly given how its population keeps aging. And it can’t be good news that employment in this industry is still down 3.18 percent since February, 2020, whether because lots of healthcare workers have become burned out from the pandemic, or because they’re leaving the field because of vaccine mandates.
The possible upside of this recent trend is that real private sector jobs in general are more productive than government jobs or SPS jobs (because the latter are more responsive to changes in economic fundamentals rather than government spending levels). Consequently, if their comparative momentum is growing, then so are the nation’s chances for solidly based prosperity, rather than the bubble-ized kind that’s been too abundant lately.
Indeed, just this kind of momentum shift is clear from the data, too. During the pandemic months, SPS employment is off by considerably more (5.21 percent) than real private sector employment (2.69 percent). During the full post-financial crisis recovery, the former jumped by 27.28 percent versus 19.60 percent for the real private sector.
As with all economic forecasts these days, though, it’s impossible to tell whether any of these trends will hold once the pandemic dust settles. What is clear, though, is that more U.S. labor market history is being made nowadays than generally recognized, and it’s by no means entirely devoid of promising potential.