Health care adds nearly 300,000 jobs in 2012

About one in six new jobs this year are in health care

Topics: Workforce, Labor Expense

December 7, 2012

Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

The Wall Street Journal predicted that Friday's Bureau of Labor Statistics report would be "the least important jobs report in five years." But today's release had plenty of interesting nuggets for job-numbers watchers, whether inside the health care industry or without.

According to the preliminary report, the nation gained 146,000 jobs in November, and 20,000 were in health care. The unemployment rate declined to 7.7%, although the overall labor participation rate fell and the number of Americans employed part-time rose.

Taken together, the figures suggest that the nation's employment growth in 2012 will generally mirror 2011, when U.S. employers added about 1.85 million jobs. However, the health care sector remains a bit ahead of last year's pace—and will probably end up with its strongest year since before the economic downturn began to depress hiring.

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Within the sector
According to BLS, nearly half of the jobs added in November—about 8,300—were at hospitals. Meanwhile, outpatient employers added roughly 4,700 jobs.

Last month's figures represent a mild reversal compared to the rest of the year's health care employment trends. In the first 11 months of 2012, ambulatory care employers added about 181,000 jobs, while hospitals added about 73,000 jobs.

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While hospital jobs growth has been strong, the even-stronger growth in ambulatory care reflects current trends in patient care patterns.

"We're in the midst of an ongoing shift of care into outpatient settings," Advisory Board Chief Research Officer Chas Roades noted earlier this year, "and most of the growth in health care activity this past few years has been in the ambulatory environment."

After last month's gains, almost 14.5 million people work in the U.S. health care sector, making it the second-largest sector behind retail.

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