By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 1/28/2010 10:49:55 AM ET 2010-01-28T15:49:55

Claim: If you want job creation in this daunting recession, look to the health care sector.

At the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed was 7.7 million, and the unemployment rate was 5 percent. Since then, both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate have doubled, with 15.3 million people searching for jobs in December. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey, 51 percent of respondents said President Barack Obama has given too little attention to the state of the economy. In Wednesday night's State of the Union address, Obama told Congress, "I want a jobs bill on my desk without delay" and added, "We cannot afford another so-called economic 'expansion' like the one from last decade -- what some call the 'lost decade' -- where jobs grew more slowly than during any prior expansion."

Fact or fiction?
Fact. Health care employment continued to flourish in December, jumping by 22,000 at a time when the economy saw a net job loss of 85,000. Health care has added 631,000 jobs since the recession began, and this occurred long before the new jobs bill that the president is seeking. It reflects robust federal health care spending ($2,683 per person in 2008) and, in part, what Stanford University economist Victor Fuchs calls "unnecessary or marginally useful tests, prescriptions, operations, and visits" to doctors' offices. While the emphasis from Obama and his aides last year was on eliminating superfluous medical care, and thus "bending the cost curve downward," the Recovery Act also tried to create medical jobs by spending $90 billion on Medicaid and on training of doctors and $50 billion for expanding the use of health information technology.

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