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The educational and health services sector is no longer recession-proof

The FRED Blog has discussed how resilient the educational services industry has been to recessions: Employment levels in schools and colleges in New York City and California, for example, decreased at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but bounced back mid-year.* With 2020 behind us, we use the Employment Situation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to revisit this topic.

The FRED graph above shows that since 1991, when data for educational services employment first became available, the year-to-year percent change in the number of persons employed has been positive in all but two years: 1992 and 2020. While the U.S. economy wasn’t in recession during any part of 1992, overall economic activity did contract starting in February 2020. That contraction resulted in a net loss of employment in educational services, health care, and social services for the year as a whole.

To go further back in time than 1991, we can examine data for the combined educational and health services supersector. Although educational and health services did not register the largest loss in annual employment among all the service industries in 2020, it did decrease for the first time since 1940. Stay tuned to the FRED Blog as we continue to monitor the wealth of FRED data during the rebound in economic activity expected for 2021.

* Revisit this July 30 FRED Blog post and click-and-drag on the graphs to expand the timeline.

How this graph was created: From FRED’s main page, browse data by “Release.” Search for “Employment Situation” and navigate the release table menus until you reach “Current Employment Statistics (Establishment Data): Table B-1. Employees on nonfarm payrolls by industry sector and selected industry detail, Seasonally adjusted.” From there, check the boxes next to “Educational services,” “Health care,” and “Social assistance” and click on “Add to Graph.” Next, edit the graph by selecting “Edit Line 1.” Change the units to “Percent Change from Year Ago” and click on “Copy to all.” Last, change the format by selecting “Graph type: Bar.”

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CES6561000001, CES6562000101, CES6562400001

The high(er) price of health

Our purchases cost more and more over time, given inflation. Tracking the price index for personal consumption expenditures is one way to measure inflation. And the FRED graph above shows that, since 2000, personal consumption expenditures (purple line) have become 40% more expensive. This amounts to an annual rate of inflation of about 1.8%.

Price indexes can be computed for specific spending categories as well—such as food, energy, and health. The Health Expenditures Price index is also shown in this graph (blue line): It’s the way the Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks the price of heath expenditures for households.

The graph reveals how much faster the price of health expenditures is growing relative to the price of general consumption expenditures: It took 19 years for general consumption expenditures to become 40% more expensive, while it took only 7 years for health expenditures to do that. So, the inflation rate for health expenditures is much higher: 3.7% per year.

How this graph was created: On FRED’s main page, search for “Personal Consumption Expenditures”; find and select “Personal Consumption Expenditures: Chain-Type Price Index.” Use the “Edit Graph” menu’s “Add Line” option to search for “Blended” and select “Health Expenditures Price Index, Blended Account Basis.” Click on “Add data series.” In the Units box, choose “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen date)” and choose the year 2000. Then click “Copy to all.” Return to the graph and restrict the view to 2000-01-01 to 2020-01-01.

Suggested by Guillaume Vandenbroucke.

View on FRED, series used in this post: HLTHSCPIBLEND, PCEPI

What’s the story with health care spending?

A look at per capita personal expenditures by state

The map above shows spending on health care per person in each U.S. state, with darker colors indicating higher amounts. Various factors in each state influence the composition of these expenditures: the age structure of the population, income level, level of competition among health care providers, and local policies and regulations. Thus, everyone can develop an interpretation of why some states spend more on health care based on, for example, older populations, higher incomes, greater market power of health care providers, and policies that lead to more spending.

As it turns out, the story hasn’t changed much over the past 20 years. The map below shows that expenditures in 1997 don’t look much different from expenditures in 2017. Relatively speaking, of course: Expenditures have at least doubled since then, but the fundamental forces that drive health care costs across states seem persistent. For example, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey still spend more than Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, which still spend more than Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.

How these maps were created: On GeoFRED, go to the state-level maps, open the cogwheel in the upper-left corner, and select the series “Per Capita Personal Consumption Expenditures: Services: Health Care.” For the second map, simply change the date.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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