The number of people employed in healthcare dropped by 6,000 in December, the first time total healthcare employment declined since July 2003, CNN Money reported.
The healthcare sector shed 2,400 hospital jobs, 1,200 jobs in physician offices, 3,900 jobs in nursing homes and 3,700 in home healthcare, CNN said. The losses were partially offset by a 3,600-job increase in outpatient care centers, according to the article.
Healthcare employment numbers fell in December after averaging growth of 17,000 per month during the year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was down from an average monthly gain of 27,000 in 2012, the BLS said, indicating a yearlong slide.
Experts told CNN they expected the drop due to an overall slowdown in the growth of healthcare spending and industry-wide restructuring designed to reduce costs.
Hospital job cuts have made the news over the last few months, part of a sectorwide loss of 41,000 jobs reported in early December. IU Health, Franciscan Alliance and St. Vincent Health in Indiana, for example, cut more than 2,000 jobs last year.
"Cuts in Medicare reimbursements brought about by sequestration and healthcare reform are hurting hospitals' bottom line," John A. Challenger, CEO of the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said last summer. "Some states are also cutting Medicaid funding, which adds to the financial challenges."
The jobs picture was rosier in other sectors, contributing to an overall decline in unemployment from 7 percent to 6.7 percent in December, according to the BLS.