A further breakdown of BLS data for August shows that ambulatory services, which include physicians' offices, grew 14,200 jobs, while hospitals grew 5,700 jobs. The volatile nursing homes subsector with its larger cohort of semi-skilled workers actually shed 3,200 jobs for the month, which happens occasionally.
More than 14.3 million people worked in the healthcare sector in August, with more than 4.8 million of those jobs at hospitals and more than 6.3 million jobs in ambulatory services, which includes more than 2.4 million jobs in physicians' offices.
In the larger economy, BLS reported that the 96,000 jobs created in August were led by 28,000 new jobs in food services, and 27,000 new jobs in professional and technical services. The unemployment rate dropped slightly in August to 8.1%, but economists said it was mostly because "discouraged workers" have stopped looking.
BLS says 12.5 million people were unemployed in August, which was essentially unchanged throughout 2012. The number of long-term unemployed, defined as those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, remained at 5 million people in July, representing 40% of the unemployed. So far this year job growth has averaged 139,000 per month compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.
If we are seeing the start of a slowing job growth trend in healthcare, it may be mirroring the slowing job growth in the overall economy.