Why is hospital job growth stagnant?

Despite the ever-increasing growth in the U.S. jobs market in recent months, there has been little upward movement in positions at hospitals, with a variety of factors coming into play, Forbes reported.

Hospitals lost 7,000 jobs in July, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By contrast, ambulatory care services added more than 21,000 jobs in July; physician office jobs increased by 7,500 jobs; and home healthcare services added 5,200 jobs.

In 2013, the hospital sector posted no gains at all, despite the fact that the overall healthcare sector added more than 204,000 jobs--one of the most stagnant periods for hospital hiring in nearly 25 years. It was hit hard by the budget sequester and payment changes brought forth by the Affordable Care Act. At the same time this year, healthcare organizations had shed nearly 30,000 jobs--far more than during the comparable period in 2012. Those job losses have shifted the dynamic of employment for nurses and other healthcare professionals, who have been hunting for positions in other than inpatient healthcare settings.

There are a few possible reasons the hospital sector has been stagnant while other parts of the economy perked up after a half dozen years of dormancy, Forbes contributing columnist Dan Diamond speculates.

Among Diamond's conclusions: The hospital sector is mature compared to other healthcare services such as outpatient care and home healthcare. But he also opined that cuts in payments by Medicare and a slew of mergers and acquisitions in the hospital sector have led to layoffs as cost-cutting measures. Moreover, payers are also giving incentives to providers who shift care to less-costly inpatient settings.

As a result, "many [hospitals] are investing in post-acute care, physician practices, and other non-hospital providers, seeking to focus more on the continuum of care and even keep patients out of hospital beds," Diamond wrote.

To learn more:
- read the Forbes article
- check out the BLS data (.pdf)