December Employment Numbers Show Rare Drop for Health Care

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The overall drop in health care employment recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may reflect efficiencies in care.

The sectors where job growth slowed were hospitals, nursing homes and residential health care facilities. Job growth remained strong in the ambulatory care setting, where costs are typically lower than in-patient care.

According to a report by Modern Healthcare, December 2013 was only the second time in 23 years of BLS employment tracking that the health care industry reduced the number of jobs. July 2003, when health care employment shrank by 9,000 jobs, was the only other time that this happened.

Overall, employment at the nation’s hospitals fell to a seasonally adjusted 4,833,200 people. That is 2,400 fewer people than in November but 9,800 more than in December of 2012.

Nursing and residential homes added just 24,600 employees in 2013, down about 40% from the annual average of 43,200. However, ambulatory care settings added 270,200 jobs in 2013, up nearly 30% from the average of 160,100.

These employment numbers for 2013 could indicate that the 2012 slowdown in health care spending that the actuaries for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted in their annual report in the January 2014 issue of Health Affairs may continue.

According to the report, health care spending grew just 3.7% in 2012 continuing a four-year trend of slower than average annual growth in health care expenditures. Total U.S. health care spending in 2012 was roughly $2.8 trillion.

Get the full BLS report.