Hospitals have been the engines of job growth in the healthcare sector over the past year, but doctors' offices and outpatient centers handily hired more people in February.
Hospitals added 10,600 jobs last month. However, ambulatory healthcare settings, such as physician practices and dentist offices, hired 23,600 people. The industry added 38,100 jobs in February, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (PDF), a shade more than what was added in January.
Hiring increased across every ambulatory subgroup except for medical and diagnostic labs. Employment at doctors' offices rose by 7,500 and at home health agencies by 7,100. The healthcare profession has emphasized outpatient care because it costs less than hospitals, reflects preventive instead of reactive measures and brings care closer to where patients live.
Although hospital jobs grew at a slower rate in February, inpatient facilities still increased their payrolls heavily over the past year. More than 181,000 hospital jobs were added between February 2015 and February 2016. Those figures are somewhat surprising as more hospitals consolidate and smaller hospitals close.
The report also showed that 438,800 healthcare jobs were officially added in 2015, revised downward from the government's initial tally but still well above the numbers from 2013 and 2014. Some have raised concerns over the massive spike in healthcare employment given that cost control has become a priority for the government and the industry.
The nation's unemployment rate stayed at 4.9%, the lowest rate since February 2008.