Healthcare job growth begins to slow down; prices remain flat

The healthcare sector--and hospitals in particular--were dynamite for job generation in 2015, but that trend appears to be slowing down, according to data from the Altarum Health Institute for Sustainable Health Spending.

The healthcare sector created 475,000 new jobs in 2015, an overall increase of the healthcare labor force by 3.2 percent (compared to an overall labor force growth of 1.7 percent), according to Altarum's data. That included 172,000 new jobs in hospitals, a 50 percent increase compared to 2014, when only 309,000 jobs were created.

However, there was a significant cooldown during the second half of last year, Altarum found. Healthcare job creation peaked at 22,000 during the month of July. By contrast, only 12,300 new jobs were created in December.

Another Altarum report on healthcare spending also demonstrated healthy growth. It was up in November 2015 by 5 percent from November 2014, the most recent month for which data was available. Spending on home healthcare showed the biggest growth, at 9.6 percent compared to November 2014, although spending on drugs was also up 9.2 percent. Hospital spending was up 3.9 percent.

In November 2014, hospital spending was on a 4.6 percent annual growth rate. Some experts have suggested that healthcare spending would pick up in the months and years ahead. However, a 2015 study by the Urban Institute suggested that healthcare spending could be $2.5 trillion less between 2014 and 2019 than previously projected.

But healthcare prices have remained relatively flat, according to Altarum's pricing report. Healthcare prices grew just 1.1 percent in November 2015 compared to November 2014. That is down from the 1.2 percent growth rate reported in October 2015. Hospital price growth was only moderately higher, at 1.4 percent. Drug pricing growth, which had been more than 6 percent for most of 2014, was down to 3.4 percent in November of last year.

To learn more:
- read the Altarum jobs report (.pdf)
- check out the Altarum spending report (.pdf)
- here's the Altarum price report (.pdf)