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Which booth at the job fair?

Scott Jagow Mar 11, 2009

There’s an interesting debate going on at Michael Mandel’s Businessweek blog. In a column last week, Mandel said the government should pour tons of money into healthcare and education because those are the only sectors that are hiring.

Mandel says:

I can easily imagine health, education, and government employment rising to 35% or more of the labor market before this downturn is over. Under the circumstances, that’s not a bad thing. It does set the stage for a mammoth fiscal crisis 5 or 10 years in the future–but for now, we need all the jobs we can get.

Mandel backs up his point with a chart that shows since 1998, the only sectors with job growth are health, education and government.

But he’s taking a lot of flak. One commentator writes:

I can’t believe what I am reading!! Mike, you are willing to keep pumping money into health and education without any thought of making these sectors more efficient. You acknowledge this will cause a mammoth fiscal crisis 5-10 years from now, so what have we accomplished, except pushing the problems further down the road?

Others point out more issues — health and education are non-cyclical, unlike housing for example, so they’re somewhat resistant to downturns. Should we be pumping more money into sectors that are hiring instead of the ones that aren’t? And don’t we run the risk of making health, education and gov’t even less productive (if that’s possible) with over-funding? Some people would rather see money go to entrepreneurs and businesses that just need a jump to start hiring again. Retraining people to go into health and education takes a long time.

I think it’s an excellent debate to be having right now, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. To say we need better health and education systems would be the understatement of the year, but I don’t see how we can justify slamming money into those sectors without a serious efficiency overhaul. And good grief, how long has that been on the table?

In case you missed it, other sectors are definitely, absolutely, certainly not hiring:

I found this photo through unemploymentality.

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