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Healthcare market provides healthy job market

Since 2001, the healthcare industry has added 1.7 million jobs. The future also looks promising.

Those numbers were published in "What's Really Propping Up The Economy," a September 25, 2006 cover story in BusinessWeek magazine. Although the report doesn't cover packaging specifically, it makes sense that the healthcare community will need professionals to manufacture packaging materials, build machinery, fill and distribute drugs, biologics, medical devices, and nutraceuticals to wholesalers, pharmacies, hospitals, etc. Here are some insights from the editorial piece:

*Without [the healthcare market], the nation's labor market would be in a deep coma. The number of private-sector jobs outside of healthcare is no higher than it was five years ago.

*"Healthcare is the major engine for the economy of Philadelphia," said Steven Altschuler, president of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the article. The pediatric center plans to add 3,000 more employees in the next five years, and develop a 1.2 million sq' research facility "packed with well-paid scientists and support staff."

*California will invest $3 billion into stem cell research in the next 10 years.

*Investments of more than $2 trillion in spending, healthcare is propping up local job markets in the Northeast, Midwest, and South, the regions hit hardest by globalization and the collapse of manufacturing.

*Healthcare has taken over the role manufacturing used to play in providing opportunities for less skilled workers to move up.

*The expansion of healthcare is also spinning off related jobs.

*A biosciences development district outside of Kansas City is being set up to help build on jobs already there, including the animal-health division of Bayer HealthCare.

*Baiju R. Shah, who runs Cleveland's BioEnterprise, a nonprofit group, said the biotech area provides jobs for a small number of well-compensated workers.

*For the 12-month period ending July, 2006, Business Week reported that private healthcare services provided the most jobs, followed by government hospitals, drug stores/optical goods stores, health insurance carriers, wholesale medical equipment and drugs, medical supplies and equipment, pharmaceutical companies, and health charities and related organizations.

Despite the good news, Business Week pointed out, "The U.S. could eventually pay a big economic price for all these jobs. Ballooning government spending on healthcare is a major reason why Washington is running an enormous budget deficit. Rising prices for medical care are making it harder for the average American to afford health insurance, leaving 47 million uninsured."

Still, it's reassuring to know the healthcare market is strong. Packaging personnel will be necessary throughout the healthcare distribution chain.
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