Healthcare job growth fuels economic recovery

The Great Recession would have been worse without significant job growth from the healthcare sector, finds a new Brookings Institution report that says the sector's continued expansion also is helping fuel the recovery.

Healthcare now employs a bigger proportion of workers in each of the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas than when employment peaked before the recession, noted the report. In fact, 13 percent of total job growth in the 100 areas occurred in healthcare.

In 95 of the metro areas, more healthcare workers are employed now than before the recession, even though 70 of the 100 areas have fewer jobs overall now.

In Virginia Beach, Va., healthcare represented nearly 40 percent of the employment growth since the deepest depths of the recession, according to the report, with the area ranking 90th out of 100 in terms of overall recovery.

That was typical, Brookings researchers found: 11 of 20 regions where healthcare represents the greatest share of post-recession employment growth--more than 25 percent--are experiencing the weakest recoveries among the 100.

Nationwide the healthcare industry has added 2.6 million jobs over the past decade to 14.5 million employed healthcare workers, representing a growth rate of 22.7 percent. By comparison, employment grew in all other industries by only 2.1 percent.

Metro areas with the highest concentrations of healthcare jobs are clustered in the industrial Midwest, which has been losing factory jobs, and in Florida, with its large population of retirees, according to the report.

The 20 most healthcare-intensive metro areas include Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown in Ohio; Pittsburgh, Scranton, Allentown and Lancaster, Pa.; Detroit and Grand Rapids, Mich.; and North Port and Palm Bay, Fla.

The 20 areas with the lowest proportions of healthcare jobs include San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Bakersfield and Oxnard, Calif.; Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo.; Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.; Virginia Beach, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Austin and Salt Lake City.

The report also examined employment rates and pay for different types of healthcare workers.

"In a national economy that is still 2.5 million jobs short of its pre-recession peak, healthcare is a bright spot," Martha Ross with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program said in a statement, according to The Hill's Healthwatch. "Employment will only grow as baby boomers age and are more likely to use healthcare services."

For more:
- download the Brookings report (.pdf)
- read a report summary
- here's the Healthwatch article