Healthcare Business News

Hospital employment continues to fall

By Melanie Evans
Posted: March 7, 2014 - 12:00 pm ET

Hospital employment in February fell for the third consecutive month, a downward trend in hiring the sector has not seen in 20 years, federal data show. The drop came as overall healthcare employment continued to rise.

Hospitals shed 1,200 jobs last month after employment declines that eliminated 3,600 positions in January and 4,800 jobs in December, new Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. Figures for February and January are preliminary.

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The last time the sector saw three consecutive months of job losses was 1993, when hospitals' workforce contracted for eight months straight, declining by 22,600 jobs. The recent job losses amount to stagnant hiring for hospitals, which employ 4.8 million nationwide, unusual for a sector that largely continued to hire through the recession albeit more weakly than in the past.

Other data underscore hospitals' recent hiring slowdown. Throughout the year that ended with February, hospital employment declined by 2,800 jobs, a decline of 0.1% and the largest drop over a 12-month period since February 1995. This drop came while, nationally, non-farm employment increased by 175,000.

Overall healthcare hiring accelerated last month, adding 9,500 jobs, or a 0.1% change; healthcare added 6,100 positions in January, which was largely flat growth for the industry. January's job gain was a revision from the loss of 400 positions reported last month.

Healthcare employed 14.6 million workers as of February. During the year that ended in February, healthcare added 190,900 jobs, 1.3% growth, compared with 236,000 jobs the prior year, 1.7% growth.

Ambulatory-care hiring added 8,400 jobs last month, an increase of 0.1%, after filling 13,400 positions in January, a 0.2% gain. For the year ended in February, ambulatory services grew 2.6% to add 166,800 jobs compared with 177,800 workers the year before for growth of 2.8%. The sector employed 6.6 million as of last month.

Physician offices added 8,200 jobs last month, 0.3% growth after the 0.1% growth of 2,300 jobs in January. Physician offices employed 2.5 million last month. For the year that ended in February, physician office hiring added 51,100 workers, an increase of 2.1%, after the prior year's increase of 52,600 jobs, or an increase of 2.2%.

Follow Melanie Evans on Twitter: @MHmevans

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