Hospital job growth flattens

The industry is one of the few to show any expansion, but the number of positions added is far smaller than in years past.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted July 16, 2009

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The increase in hospital employment has slowed to a crawl, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to preliminary estimates released in June, 300 hospital jobs were added in May. Approximately 4,714,900 were employed in the industry in April, and the total grew to only 4,715,200 in May.

These numbers are in stark contrast to previous years. For instance, 16,800 jobs were added to this sector between April and May 2008. But the totals are still better than other sectors. Non-farm payroll declined by 345,000, and the overall unemployment rate increased from 8.9% to 9.4%, ticking up to 9.5% in June.

"It is not surprising that the BLS has found that growth is slowing in the hospital field," said Matt Fenwick, American Hospital Assn. spokesman. "The economic impact on hospitals has been substantial, and, in some cases, staff levels are being impacted. A recent AHA survey found that nine in 10 hospitals have made cutbacks to address economic concerns, with nearly half reducing staff.

"We also know that the community need for care remains high and, in these tough times, communities turn to their local hospital. Hospitals, which play a vital role in the economic health of a community, are walking a tightrope, trying to balance the growing needs of their communities with today's economic challenges," Fenwick said.

Health care as a whole added 23,500 jobs, primarily because of the addition of 17,600 to the ambulatory setting and 7,300 to home health care services. The economic slowdown has had minimal impact on employment in physician offices. An estimated 3,500 jobs were added in this setting in May, but 5,600 were added in May of last year.

Other recently released data also indicate that hospitals are being hit hard in this recession. There were 16 mass layoffs at hospitals in May, involving 1,338 people. A mass layoff is defined as 50 or more workers being let go at once.

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