Overall, the country added the smallest number of jobs since December 2008 even though the national unemployment rate dropped last month. Across all industries, the country saw 162,000 added jobs in July, according to the preliminary and seasonally adjusted numbers released Friday morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even though the 2,500 jobs were the lowest monthly total of new jobs in a decade, July’s figures might as well represent flat job growth, said Mark Smith, president of Merritt Hawkins, a healthcare consultancy. Smith blamed the job cuts on the sequester, which sparked automatic budget cuts starting March 1, saying nonclinical positions were the most affected. He downplayed the slowed July numbers.
“Next month, it would certainly get my attention much more if we saw this again,” Smith said.
In July, hospitals and physicians' offices cut jobs. Hospitals reported a decline of 4,400 jobs, a 0.09% dip, while physicians' offices reported 700 fewer positions, a 0.03% cut. Hospitals last saw a job decrease in January. Physicians' offices haven't seen a decrease since June 2012.
Outpatient-care centers were healthcare's best performer, adding 2,800 jobs in July, bringing the workforce total to 681,300, a 0.41% increase. Home healthcare added 3,900 jobs, a 0.3% rise. That's the smallest increase since July 2012. Ambulatory care added 6,600 jobs, the smallest number since June 2012.
The BLS noted that in 2013 healthcare has added an average of 16,000 jobs a month. That's behind the 2012 pace when the sector added an average of 27,000 jobs per month.
The BLS noted that in 2013 healthcare has added a seven-month average of 15,729 jobs a month. That’s behind the pace set in August 2012 when the seven-month average was 24,342. That average is important to note as winter months drive up the employment figures as healthcare providers hire more seasonal workers to staff flu clinics and other endeavors.
It’s been popular to blame the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for jobs cuts, and Smith acknowledged the law has had a negative effect on jobs as healthcare providers gear up to serve the 30 million uninsured who could be new customers under the law. Hospitals are trimming payrolls to be lean and efficient and are eliminating nonessential positions. Information technology could be a vulnerable department. However, it’s still too early to measure the ACA’s true effect on the job market, Smith stressed.
Overall, the unemployment rate fell in July at 7.4%. June's figure was 7.6%.
Follow Ashok Selvam on Twitter: @MH_aselvam