Job growth in health care sector on upward trend

Government statistics and a counting of online ads show more openings in the medical industry. Also, an employer survey suggests that hiring will keep expanding.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted Feb. 23, 2010

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Job creation by the health care industry continues to take some of the bite out of the numbers lost by the economy as a whole, according a report on the national employment situation released Feb. 5 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"There's been a shift in the importance of health care in the U.S. economy," said David N. Gans, vice president of innovation and research for the Medical Group Management Assn. "It's going to continue to grow and employ more people."

Approximately 20,000 jobs were lost from payrolls across the country in January, according to the BLS, a division of the U.S. Labor Dept. But job eliminations in construction, transportation and warehousing were somewhat counterbalanced by the 15,300 created in ambulatory medical centers, including 5,600 in physician offices. Another 5,000 were added to hospital payrolls. More jobs were created this past January in the health care industry than at this time last year.

Experts say this is being driven by the fact that, although some areas of the country are experiencing shortages of medical professionals, there are more physicians entering the marketplace, and very few, if any, end up working alone. According to MGMA data, a physician needs an average of 4.5 support staff, although this can vary by specialty.

"We are seeing an increase in the number of physicians, and that is resulting in a need for more support staff," Gans said. "And these are good jobs. They are well-paid, rewarding positions. There are very good growth opportunities. You're not flipping a burger."

Other surveys supported the idea that health care is driving job creation and will continue to do so. A report by the Conference Board issued Feb. 1 found that the number of jobs advertised online increased 382,000 and topped 4 million for the first time since November 2008. Listings for health care professionals increased by 24,500, bringing the total for this category to 567,800. About 6,500 additional ads were placed for medical support staff for a total of 119,000.

Another report released Dec. 29, 2009, by CareerBuilder, an online job search and recruitment company, indicated that these upward trends should continue. According to the organization's 2010 Job Forecast, 21% of health care employers plan to expand staff. This is an increase from the 17% who said the same in the 2009 report.

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