Healthcare jobs inch back to pre-pandemic levels, adding 75K in August

Dive Brief:

  • The healthcare industry added 75,000 jobs in August, led by physician offices (+27,000), dentists (+22,000), hospitals (+14,000) and home health care services (+12,000), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s monthly jobs reportNursing and residential care facility jobs continue to decline, losing 14,000 jobs in August. 
  • The gains are in line with recent months, though the recovery appears to be slowing. The healthcare industry added 126,000 jobs in July and 358,000 jobs in June.
  • Overall, the unemployment rate in August fell to 8.4%. It’s been steadily improving since April’s peak at 14.7%, though it’s still a far cry from February, when the unemployment rate was 3.5%.

Dive Insight:

Healthcare jobs, though not as devastated from the COVID-19 recession as some other sectors, have been inching back to pre-pandemic levels following significant losses earlier this year. Many providers have furloughed and laid off employees to free up cash, facing plummeting patient demand, rising expenses to prep for the pandemic and an uncertain financial future.

The industry lost 43,000 jobs in March, then another 1.4 million in April, but began slowly boomeranging back in May, June and now July. Offices of dentists and other physicians, along with hospitals and ambulatory services, took major hits.

Overall, the healthcare industry had 15.8 million jobs in August according to Friday’s jobs report, compared with 16.3 million during the same time last year. And some sectors are closer to last year’s levels than others, such as hospitals.

Hospitals are 47,000 jobs away from where they were during the same time last year. 

Ambulatory healthcare service jobs rose slightly in August, though they are still over 200,000 jobs short from the same month last year. That subsector was a major driver of industry jobs pre-pandemic.

Home healthcare services too are near pre-pandemic levels, following steady gains in recent months. At the same time though, nursing and residential care facility jobs continue to decline, losing another 14,000 in August.

Nursing and residential care facilities lost 18,000 jobs in June, then 28,000 jobs in July.

However, once healthcare jobs finally reach earlier levels, a worsening of the recession could hinder future growth in the sector, Erica Groshen, former BLS commissioner and current senior labor economics advisor at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said.

“Somewhere along the line we’re going to get a long slow slog, and the question is when will that start, and how slow it will be,” Groshen said.