Healthcare job growth back on the upswing

Healthcare job growth had been mostly stagnant of late, but it appears to be taking off this year with a vigor not seen since the onset of the Great Recession.

The healthcare sector added 22,600 jobs last month, according to data from the Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. For the past six months, the average monthly gain has been 26,000 positions, 50 percent higher than the 17,500 average between March 2013 and March of this year.

"Two months ago, we were seeing no acceleration in healthcare employment," Charles Roehrig, director of the Center for Sustainable Health Spending, said in a statement. "However, with the upward revision to July and strong August and September growth, the picture has transformed into a significant jump in the second quarter that has continued through the third quarter."

Outpatient care centers posted the biggest gain, adding 33,000 jobs over the past year. Altogether, all categories of outpatient care services added 62,800 jobs, for an average annual growth rate of 2.8 percent.

Hospitals gained 6,200 jobs last month, compared to the monthly average of 1,400 that stretches back the past two years, according to Altarum's data.

The data was a reversal of fairly grim job news in the recent past, including job cuts and the fact that hospitals added no new jobs in total last year.

Roehrig added that his institute was investigating whether the job growth was attached to states that expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. About two dozen states have yet to expand Medicaid eligibility, and data suggests the healthcare sectors in expansion states have fared better than those that have rejected expansion.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concluded that Medicaid expansion would save hospitals $5.7 billion a year in uncompensated costs, the type of item that likely would lead to more spending on staffing. The HHS report noted that more than three-quarters of those savings go to states that expand their Medicaid programs.

To learn more:
- read the Altarum jobs report (.pdf)
- check out the Altarum statement