Healthcare Job Growth Remains Robust

John Commins, July 7, 2017

The sector’s 37,000 new jobs accounted for nearly 17% of all new jobs in the economy in June. Despite the strong growth, healthcare job creation is trending about 20% slower than in 2016, a record year.

Halfway through 2017, healthcare job growth remains strong, but it’s running nearly 20% below last year’s record pace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

In June, healthcare added 37,000 jobs, including 26,000 in ambulatory services and 12,000 in hospitals. So far this year, healthcare has created an average of 24,000 jobs each month, compared with a monthly average of 32,000 jobs in 2016, BLS data show.

In the larger economy, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 222,000 in June, and the healthcare sector accounted for nearly 17% of those new jobs. The unemployment rate was little changed at 4.4%, BLS data show.

The latest Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine data series for May shows that healthcare job growth is robust, with nearly five job openings for every clinician and healthcare technologist searching for a job, with an average hourly wage of $38.06. The news is not so good for healthcare support workers, of whom there are 1.4 people searching for every advertised job, paying an average hourly wage of $14.65.

Healthcare job growth has continued at a torrid pace for most of the new century. The sector set a record pace for job growth in 2016, which broke the record set in 2015. However, 2017 is trending slower. Nicole Smith, chief economist at Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, told HealthLeaders Media that the slowdown could be linked to churn and uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act.  

"Maybe hospitals are being pre-emptive and not hiring workers at the same pace as in the past in anticipation that this repeal and replace is actually going to go through,” Smith said. “We can expect hospital hiring to really slow down until people get a handle on what is going to happen.”

This ongoing robust job growth in healthcare was not unforeseen. In 2009, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors correctly predicted that healthcare would be the largest source of job growth in the decade ahead, with 3.5 million new jobs expected by 2016.

"Healthcare practitioners and technicians, which include physicians, registered nurses, and other health professionals and technicians, are expected to be in increasing demand," the report stated. “Investments in health information technology will bolster job growth in that area, while the healthcare support sector–including physical therapists, medical social workers, and home healthcare aides–is projected to see even faster job growth as the nation's population ages.”

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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