Although the healthcare sector is one of the economy's biggest generator of jobs, hospitals are creating fewer positions these days, AHA News Now reported.
Hospital-based employment fell slightly in January, to just under 4.8 million people, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The hospital workforce lost 4,500 jobs, although the numbers are still about 1,800 higher than December 2012. It lost 4,700 jobs in December, the first consecutive two-month decline since February 2011, Bloomberg reported.
Altogether, hospitals employed 4.78 million people in January 2014. The entire healthcare sector employs 14.6 million people on a seasonally adjusted basis, with the loss in hospital jobs representing virtually about half the entire loss of jobs in the sector between December 2013 and last month. The remainder of the job loss came from skilled nursing facilities and general nursing homes. Physician offices, ambulatory surgical centers, home healthcare all posted small job gains.
Hospitals had been generating thousands of jobs each month in recent years, but that pace has slowed.
Bloomberg attributed the job losses at hospitals in part to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, which involves a cut in reimbursements and shifting of more procedures to the outpatient setting.
"Everyone knows reimbursements are going down, so you'd better get your house in order," Mitch Morris of Deloitte Consulting told Bloomberg, adding that hospitals are "putting on the brakes" on hiring until they see how the ACA shapes up. "It's a much more complex answer than just cutting people," he said. "It's about carefully looking around your business model and asking how you can deliver higher quality care faster and cheaper. You're not going to build that new hospital wing yet."