Hospitals Still a Job-Creation Machine

John Commins, October 11, 2010

We're three quarters through calendar 2010, so it's a good time to examine where we stand on job growth.

Federal data show that the overall healthcare sector remains one of the few bright spots for job growth in a weak economy. However, we're getting mixed news about job growth at hospitals.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data for September show that hospitals have added 28,200 jobs in the first nine months of 2010—a rate of job growth that is more than double that of 2009, although dwarfed by the 86,200 hospital jobs created in the first nine months of 2008.
BLS data also suggest that hospital mass layoffs affecting 50 or more employees could hit a new record for the year. There have been 102 mass layoffs resulting in 8,233 initial unemployment claims—government-speak for lost jobs—in the first eight months of 2010, a pace that would slightly surpass the record set in 2009, when hospitals reported 152 mass layoffs resulting in 11,787 lost jobs.

So, we've got overall hospital job growth that is:

  1. Healthy when compared to the rest of the economy;
  2. Improving when compared with last year, although slower than it has been for the better part of the last decade; and
  3. Subject to frequent mass layoffs.

A little perspective is needed. BLS tells us that the nation's hospitals directly employ more than 4.7 million people. With all respect to the 8,233 hospital employees who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own—from a macro-economic perspective the layoffs are not a big number. That is especially true when we note that hospitals have created more than three jobs for every job eliminated so far this year.

Major negatives hospitals face include the usual suspects: lower government reimbursements, declining admissions, declining philanthropy for nonprofits, and more charity care owing to job losses in the larger economy. It is not surprising that individual hospitals are imposing short-term layoffs as they reallocate money for other budget concerns, and reprioritize services.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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