Labor daze

Health care keeps hiring, rest of economy loses jobs

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Health care remained a bright spot in a Bureau of Labor Statistics August jobs report that offered grim news for nearly every other sector.

Overall, the agency found that U.S. employment was flat last month, although cautioned that the data included 45,000 workers who were on strike and therefore counted as out of work. However, the health care sector continued to hire, slightly above its recent pace of about 25,000 new jobs per month. 

BLS reported that health care added 29,700 jobs in August, with 18,100 new positions in ambulatory care and 7,700 new jobs at hospitals. Overall, the health care sector has grown by 306,000 jobs across the past 12 months, representing about one-quarter of all new jobs created since August 2010.

Ambulatory care jobs continue to surge

More than 14.1 million people now work in the U.S. health care sector; nearly 6.2 million are in ambulatory health care services, about 4.8 million work in hospitals, and another 3.2 million work in nursing and residential care facilities.

In recent months, the growth rate of new jobs in ambulatory care has generally been double the job growth rate at hospitals. Ambulatory care jobs have grown by 2.9% in the past 12 months, whereas hospital jobs have grown 1.6%. While BLS revised down hospitals' job gains from July—suggesting that hospitals only added 11,000 jobs that month, rather than 14,000 positions—the agency also revised up its estimates on ambulatory care hiring. BLS now says that ambulatory care added 35,300 jobs since July began.

Fears that economic chill could catch up to health care

Some have warned that health care's days as a job-growth engine may wane, as providers pull back on capital investment and federal reimbursement cuts loom. A slew of hospitals recently cut staff and management positions, citing financial pressures (BLS release, 9/2).

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