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Weak Health Jobs Growth; Mostly in Hospitals and Physicians’ Offices

Last Friday’s employment report, cheered as positive, had a grey lining for health workers, corroborating last December’s signal of weakness.

Total nonfarm payroll increased by 295,000 from January, but only 24,000 (fewer than 8 percent of the total) were health jobs. And 9,000 of those jobs were in hospitals. Physicians’ offices saw 7,000 jobs, but employment in other health facilities grew only slightly or shrank (Table 1).

Looking at the longer term, job growth in health has been about the same as in other sectors. However, the composition of the health workforce is clearly changing. Hospitals added 70,000 jobs, but that from a headcount of 4.8 million. Physicians’ offices, which employed only 2.5 million in February 2014, added 74,000 jobs in the last twelve months (Table 2).

As I have suggested before, shifting the health workforce out of hospitals and into ambulatory settings likely represents a positive change, from less efficient to more efficient facilities.

Table 1: Employment Situation Summary(Seasonally Adjusted, Thousands)
1/31/2015 2/28/2015 Change Percentage Change
Total Nonfarm

140,831

141,126

295

0.21%
Health 14,904 14,928 24 0.16%
Ambulatory 6,789 6,808 20 0.29%
Offices of Physicians 2,515 2,523 7 0.29%
Outpatient care centers 729 729 0 -0.03%
Home health care services 1,292 1,295 3 0.25%
Hospitals 4,827 4,836 9 0.18%
Nursing & residential care facilities 3,288 3,283 -5 -0.15%
Nursing care facilities 1,657 1,654 -3 -0.19%
Total Nonfarm less health 125,927 126,198 271 0.22%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary, February (March 6, 2015)

 

Table 2: Employment Situation Summary

(Seasonally Adjusted, Thousands)

2/28/2014 2/28/2015 Change Percentage Change
Total Nonfarm 137,830 141,126 3,296 2.39%
Health 14,572 14,928 356 2.44%
Ambulatory 6,557 6,808 252 3.84%
Offices of Physicians 2,449 2,523 74 3.01%
Outpatient care centers 698 729 31 4.44%
Home health care services 1,241 1,295 54 4.31%
Hospitals 4,767 4,836 70 1.46%
Nursing & residential care facilities 3,249 3,283 35 1.06%
Nursing care facilities 1,651 1,654 2 0.15%
Total Nonfarm less health 123,258 126,198 2,940 2.39%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary, February (March 6, 2015)

 

John R. Graham is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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