Health care job growth sets record

As the moribund economy comes slowly back to life, the medical industry is proving to be an employment driver.

By — Posted March 15, 2012

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More jobs were created in the health care setting in January and February than in any other recorded two-month period, and demand for medical professionals, such as physicians, is getting stronger, according to two reports issued in March.

Overall payroll employment grew by 227,000 in February, and the unemployment rate held at 8.3%, said the monthly employment report released March 9 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of the new jobs were in health care, where 49,000 positions were added -- the most ever recorded by the BLS for two months. Of this number, 9,500 were created in physician offices. Hospitals added 15,400 (link).

The government agency reported on Feb. 3 that 30,900 jobs were created in health care in January, but the number was revised to 43,300 in the more recent statistical release. The number of jobs created in physician offices was changed from 2,700 to 4,300, and the count of additional hospital positions changed from 12,700 to 16,900.

This is a significant improvement from a year or two ago, when the economy was heavily bruised by the recession of December 2007 to June 2009. The combined gain of 92,300 health care jobs in January and February also set a record for job creation in that sector. Previously, the most positions added to the health care setting over two months was 80,800 in August and September 2002.

Health care added only 19,700 positions in February 2011, with 100 in physician offices and 3,900 in hospitals. In February 2010, health care added 14,700 jobs, with 2,100 in physician offices. Hospitals lost 200 jobs that month. Health care is traditionally a lagging indicator that is affected later -- and less severely -- than other industries by various economic cycles.

The BLS does not break down numbers by occupation, but there is some indication that many of the jobs are for physicians and other health care professionals.

The monthly Conference Board report published March 5 for online help-wanted advertisements found that listings for any job grew 39,800 in February to 4,423,300 (link). About 16,600 new ads appeared for health care practitioners and technicians, a category that includes physicians, bringing the total to 596,900. There were not enough qualified people to fill the jobs, with 0.4 individuals for each advertised position. Demand for health care support personnel decreased by 2,200 to 138,100, and there were two people for each advertised position.

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