Updated 9:40 a.m.
Dan Diamond, Managing Editor
Health care is coming off its best two months of jobs growth in at least 20 years.
And probably, ever.
The sector added 49,000 jobs in February, marking its 103rd consecutive month of growth, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
Taken alone, health care's February hiring surge would be historic.
Since 2007, the sector has added about 25,000 jobs per month. The single-month record was in September 2011: 46,200 new jobs
But BLS revisions to previous data—which bumped January's health jobs growth up by more than 12,000 jobs—would mean the sector added 92,300 jobs through the first two months of 2012.
If those estimates hold up, that would also be a record, and by a considerable margin. Health care's previous best two-month stretch was in August-September 2002, when the sector added 80,800 jobs.
Breaking down the numbers
The overall economy added 227,000 jobs in February, BLS reported. The unemployment rate remained at 8.3%.
The agency also revised upward its estimates for U.S. jobs growth in January, from 243,000 jobs to 284,000.
Within health care, outpatient jobs continue to grow twice as fast as jobs in the inpatient sector. BLS reported that ambulatory care added 28,200 jobs, while hospitals added 15,400 new jobs last month. Home health services added about 5,000 jobs.
Health care as engine of the economy
The latest jobs report reinforces health care's central role in the U.S. economy, experts said.
"With an aging population, continued increases in chronic disease driven by obesity and lifestyle, and the coming coverage expansion, we're going to need more of all types of health care workers," according to Chas Roades, the Advisory Board's Chief Research Officer. "Wages are likely to rise in the sector as well, because the same aging trend will drive a growing shortage of clinical talent."
Next in the Daily Briefing
Survey: Need outpacing charitable donations at not-for-profit hospitals