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For first time in a decade, health care lost jobs—but that could change

January 10, 2014

    Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

    The health care sector lost 6,000 jobs in December, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates released on Friday morning. (About 2,400 of those jobs were at hospitals.)

    And if those initial estimates stand, it would be the first monthly jobs loss for health care since July 2003.

    But don't assume that those estimates will stand.

    We've seen this before—just a few weeks ago. A revision made it seem like the health sector had lost several thousand jobs in September 2013, before the BLS re-revised the data and concluded that the industry had actually grown again. Sometimes these small swings are just statistical noise, economists say.

    A small, isolated downturn also doesn't mean much if the broad trend is pointing the other direction, Harvard's Amitabh Chandra has argued. And Friday's BLS estimates suggest that health care gained about 207,000 jobs in 2013, which would be the envy of any other sector...but that would still be the slowest year for jobs growth in health care since 1999.

    Amid the reports of lost jobs—with hospitals, nursing homes, home health, and doctor's offices all shedding positions in December—there was one bright spot for health care: Outpatient care centers continued their strong growth, gaining an estimated 3,600 jobs last month. That corner of the health sector has grown about twice as fast as the broader industry, having doubled in size since 1998.

    How to get frontline staff to be more productive

    Hospitals’ ability to improve cost and quality performance depends on staff at every level within the organization. But there is a troubling disconnect between expectations for the organization and those for frontline staff, Steven Berkow remarks.

    Providers are increasingly held to an 'A for outcomes' standard, but continue to hand out 'A's for effort' to their frontline staff, Berkow says. So what's most successful way to align individual behavior with organizational strategy? Instill accountability—rather than hold staff accountable.

    Watch Steven's video to learn four key levers for driving shared responsibility and staff commitment to organizational success, then visit the frontline accountability topic page to browse the latest best practice research, expert guidance, webconferences, and more from across the Advisory Board.

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