Healthcare Job Growth Stubbornly Weak

John Commins, May 9, 2011

Because the U.S. population is aging, gaining weight, and thus requiring more healthcare services, conventional wisdom has it that the demand for healthcare workers will remain strong. To an extent, that has been true.

In April, for example, for the second consecutive month, job growth in the healthcare sector showed impressive gains, Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary data shows. Healthcare sector consistently has been one of the few job-creating sectors in the recovery. And, The Conference Board monthly review of online job postings consistently shows that there are three jobs available for every skilled healthcare provider.

What's puzzling, though, is another report from The Conference Board this month which shows that post-recession job growth in the healthcare sector today is the slowest it's been during an economic recovery since 1960.

Healthcare sector job growth was 6.9% in the months after the recession of 1991, and 4.5% following the 2001 recession, but only 3.5% in the 21 months since the recession ended in June, 2009, The Conference Board research shows.

What's going on?

"If you look at the 21 months since the recession, the recovery in healthcare jobs is the weakest among all recoveries in healthcare jobs," Gad Levanon, associate director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board, tells HealthLeaders Media. "It's one of the fastest growing industries, but it is always one of the fastest growing industries. But in relative terms healthcare is recovering more slowly than in any other recovery."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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