While the rest of the economy posted rates of joblessness not seen since 1993, healthcare continued to expand its workforce in December 2008, adding 31,600 positions in a month in which the overall American workforce shrunk by 534,000 jobs.
The only major private industry sector that continued to add a significant number of jobs was healthcare, said Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a written statement accompanying the latest preliminary statistics. Since September 2008, the national nonfarm economy has lost 1.9 million jobs, while healthcare added 93,200 jobs in that time, according to the seasonally adjusted statistics.
Overall in 2008, the healthcare workforce grew by 2.8%, ending the year with 371,600 more jobs than the year before. Hospitals added 11,900 workers in December to bring the total hospital workforce to about 4.71 million, while physician offices added 5,600 workers to bring the workforce to about 2.3 million. Both sectors posted monthly job growth of 0.2%, a rate that has held steady since at least September.
The one area in healthcare that lost jobs in December was in outpatient-care centers, where 1,100 jobs vanished, a loss of 0.2% for the month. But outpatient centers ended 2008 with a workforce of 521,7001.7% more than the year before.