Healthcare sector adds a hefty 63,500 jobs in February but still lags pre-pandemic employment

The beleaguered healthcare labor pool saw strong recovery during the month of February, adding 63,500 jobs across home health care services, physicians’ offices and other areas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

It’s a marked improvement over recent months—such as January, when 17,500 healthcare jobs were added, and December, when 3,100 were lost—and adds to a full year's gain of nearly 220,000 healthcare jobs since February 2021, according to BLS data.

However, the bureau noted in a Friday release that the sector is still down 306,000 jobs, or 1.9%, from its pre-pandemic tally in February 2020.

The majority of healthcare job recovery reported during the past month was spread across ambulatory healthcare services, such as physicians’ offices (15,100 jobs gained), home health care services (19,700 jobs gained), dentists' offices (3,700 jobs gained) or “offices of other health practitioners” (12,100 jobs gained), according to the data.

Hospitals added 2,700 new jobs during the month.

Nursing and residential care facilities, a sector that had been hit particularly hard by pandemic job losses, added 1,600 new jobs in nursing care facilities, 1,200 new jobs in residential mental health facilities, 4,000 new jobs in community care facilities for the elderly and 400 jobs across “other residential care facilities.”

Economywide, the U.S. saw employment rise by 678,000 during February 2022, according to the BLS, which specifically called out healthcare alongside leisure and hospitality, professional and business services and construction as primary contributors to the recovery. The country is still down 2.1 million jobs, or 1.4%, from February 2020, according to the bureau.

The healthcare sector’s labor crisis has led many providers to tap pricey contract labor or, in some cases, limit admissions or services due to short supply. Such decisions became more frequent during January’s omicron wave, when many hospitals saw greater COVID-19 admissions at the same time their employees were calling out sick with illnesses of their own.

Just last week, the American Hospital Association penned a letter to the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee that described healthcare’s workforce challenges as “a national emergency” and pled for new policies to alleviate staffing shortages, offset labor spending, improve the workforce pipeline and support the mental health of worn-down workers.