Examining Health Care Employment: The Prognosis Is Good

By Condon, Nancy | EconSouth, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Examining Health Care Employment: The Prognosis Is Good


Condon, Nancy, EconSouth


In a region struggling with above-average unemployment, the Southeast has at least one industry with robust job growth: health care. New technologies and shifting demographics have combined to create job opportunities. But federal and state budgets under pressure, rising health care costs, and an aging populace are straining the health care system. Will this sector be able to maintain its robust growth?

Jobs in health care are alive and kicking. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that health care jobs have increased every month going back to July 2003. Of the 117,000 jobs the U.S. economy gained during the month of July, health care added 31,000, or about 26 percent of net gains. Over the past 12 months, employment grew in all of the major health care settings, with home health care showing the highest 12-month rate of increase (4.4 percent) and hospitals showing the lowest (1.2 percent).

Similarly, the Southeast's health care employment sector is doing well compared to the overall job market. For example, the Southeast economy lost a net total of 147,900 nonfarm jobs from May to June, but health care picked up 700 jobs. Looking at the year-over-year numbers (June 2010 to June 2011), five of the six southeastern stales held a ranking in health care employment much higher than its overall employment ranking. Louisiana gained more health care jobs during that year than any other state in the nation (see the table on page 8).

During the 2007-9 recession, when most other industries were shedding jobs, the national health care sector continued to add jobs at a relatively vigorous rate of 22,000 on average per year. In fact, this segment had robust growth throughout the last three recessions, hiccupping only in this last one. Catherine Wood, an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics at the BLS, examined the health of health care employment during recessions in the April 2011 issue of the Monthly Labor Review, a BLS publication. She wrote that "the industry has been among the leading contributors to overall job growth during recessions."

Health Care Jobs, Southeastern States

State        2011 rank,   Percent      Total jobs   Health care
             health care  change,      (thousands)  jobs
             and social   health care               (thousands)
             assistance   and social
             jobs (total  assistance
             jobs rank)   2010-11

Louisiana    1 (30)       4.68         1,908.70     245.80

Tennessee    21 (35)      1.93         2,619 40     332.70

Florida      23 (33)      1.91         7,164.20     946.10

Mississippi  32 (41)      1.38         1,095.80     117.50

Georgia      33 (49)      1.37         3,818.60     399.00

Alabama      46 (48)      0.00         1-878.80     193.70

Note: Slates ate tanked based on their percent change
in job growth 2010-11.

Source: W. P. Carey School of Business. Arizona Slate University

The industry continues to be a strong contributor to job growth. According to the BLS, health care employment reached an all-time high of about 10.74 percent of total employment in July 2011. This number is up 0.13 percentage points from the previous year, 1.24 percentage points from the start of the recession in December 2007, and more than 2.23 percentage points from a decade ago. To look at the numbers under a different microscope, national health care employment has increased 7.6 percent since the recession began, while non-health-care employment has fallen by 6.2 percent. This pattern is evident in the southeastern states as well (see chart 1).

The BLS categorizes components of labor and employment according to the North American Industry Classification System During the 2007-9 recession, when most other industries were shedding jobs, the national health care sector continued to add jobs at a relatively vigorous rate of 22,000 on average per year. (NAICS). …

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