June 8, 2020

Preliminary data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows the U.S. health care industry recovered an estimated 312,400 jobs in May, after losing 1.4 million jobs in April due to the financial constraints caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

US Covid-19 cases surpass 1.9M, death toll tops 110K

The data comes as the United States' new coronavirus epidemic continues to grow. U.S. officials as of Monday morning reported 1,953,100 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus—up from 1,883,000 cases as of Friday morning.

As of Monday morning, officials had reported a total of 110,422 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 108,194 deaths reported as of Friday morning.

US health care jobs appear to be rebounding 

The new coronavirus' spread in America and throughout the world has had severe economic effects, causing volatility in global stock markets and several countries, including the United States, to shut down nonessential businesses and implement stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the virus' spread. In the health care industry, many providers had to halt scheduled procedures that weren't related to Covid-19 care.

As a result, millions of Americans were furloughed or laid off during the past few months. A Department of Labor report released last month showed that the U.S. unemployment rate had risen to a record high of 14.7% in April, and preliminary data released last month by BLS showed that the health care industry specifically lost 1.4 million jobs in April.

But states over the past month have begun reopening nonessential businesses and easing social distancing measures intended to curb the virus' spread. Likewise, many health care providers have begun to once again provide scheduled care that's not related to Covid-19.

As a result, the United States recovered millions of jobs in May, according to preliminary data BLS released Friday. The data shows U.S. employers added 2.5 million jobs last month, which is the most jobs added in a single month on record since 1948, the Wall Street Journal reports. The data also shows the U.S. unemployment rate decreased from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May.

According to the data, the U.S. health care industry in May restored 312,400 jobs, with most of those gains stemming from increases in jobs at dentists' offices. The industry reported gains of 244,800 jobs in dentists' offices, 73,100 jobs in the offices of other health practitioners, and 51,300 jobs in physicians' offices in May. The data also showed that the ambulatory sector added 375,700 jobs last month.

However, other parts of the health care industry continued to report job losses. For example, hospitals lost an estimated 26,700 jobs in May, though that marked a slowdown from the estimated 135,000 jobs that hospitals lost in April. Nursing and residential care facilities also lost an estimated 37,000 jobs in May, and residential mental health facilities lost an estimated 10,800 jobs. In addition, community care facilities for the elderly lost an estimated 8,300 jobs and the home health care industry lost an estimated 3,000 jobs.

But overall, Ash Shehata, KPMG's national sector leader for health care and life sciences, said the new data demonstrates the health care industry's resilience when compared with other industries and indicates that the health care industry might see a V-shaped recovery, with a pronounced bounce back after its steep drop. "I was a bit surprised by that much growth given the extent of the full shutdown that we saw in the segment. But it is also a reminder: As we start to forecast the recovery, we probably need to forecast a different recovery for health care," Shehata said.

Some observers said the data suggests the United States might have moved beyond the worst stage of the epidemic's economic fallout and may recover faster than previously thought. However, the U.S. economy still faces many obstacles, including the possibility of a second wave of its new coronavirus epidemic, the Journal reports.

Lindsey Piegza, an economist at the financial firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co, said, "This is definitely in the right direction and suggests the U.S. economy may be faring better than some of those worst-case scenarios. But it remains to be seen if this is indicative of an ongoing positive trend or if this reflects the bare minimum of the labor force needed to reopen the economy."

The health care industry, specifically, also faces the challenge of convincing patients that it is safe to receive care at providers' facilities. "Health systems have to step up and make a strong point to consumers that they are leading the way, preparing for this, and doing everything possible to keep their population safe and healthy through this pandemic. That could be the biggest indicator of whether we're a V, U, or W-shaped recovery in health care," Shehata said.

Trump says states should continue easing coronavirus restrictions—even as growth in new cases rises in some

President Trump during a press conference on Friday urged all states to continue reopening nonessential businesses and lifting stay-at-home orders, saying states such as Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and others that have eased such restrictions "are doing tremendous business." Trump said, "The best strategy to ensure the health of our people moving forward is to focus our resources on protecting high-risk populations, like the elderly and those in nursing homes, while allowing younger and healthy Americans to get back to work immediately."

But public health experts have cautioned that swiftly reopening states could lead to second spike in Covid-19 cases, noting that some states have continued to see upticks in their daily growth rates of newly reported cases. For example, data from Johns Hopkins University shows Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas all have reported increases in their growth rates of newly confirmed Covid-19 cases over the past week.

Joseph Lewnard, assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of California-Berkeley, said, "Places that have lifted, in part or whole, some stay-at-home intervention have seen a rise in cases." Lewnward said he believes the uptick in cases is likely the result of Memorial Day weekend activities and states easing stay-at-home orders around that time (Mitchell, Wall Street Journal, 6/6; Bannow, Modern Healthcare, 6/5; Coombs, CNBC, 5/9; Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 6/8; Alper, Reuters, 6/5; Feuer/Higgins/Dunn, CNBC, 6/5; Ansari/Abbott, Wall Street Journal, 6/7; Achenbach/James, Washington Post, 6/5; New York Times, 6/5).

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