The U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in April, underwhelming many economists, but the total would've been lower had it not been for the relentless hiring that continues throughout healthcare.
The healthcare industry created 44,200 jobs last month, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represented more than 1 out of every 4 jobs added in April.
Through the first four months of 2016, the healthcare industry has added 161,900 people to its payrolls, compared with 137,300 jobs created in the same time frame in 2015. If this pace continues, almost a half million people would gain employment in the healthcare sector this year, which would be higher than last year's already robust total of 438,800 jobs.
Whether the influx of healthcare jobs is positive or negative remains a point of contention. Many healthcare professions, including doctors, nurses and administrators, offer good salaries. However, that also means more money goes toward healthcare, an industry that already represents 17.5% of gross domestic product, which is well above what other industrialized counties spend.
It hasn't been all rosy jobs news in healthcare so far this year. The net job gains mask the fact that some small hospitals have closed, an issue that has persisted the past several years as more care moves away from the inpatient setting. Job cuts have occurred elsewhere as well. Last month, EmblemHealth, a New York-based health insurer, laid off 250 employees.
In April, hospitals added 22,900 jobs just a month after adding a revised 9,200 jobs. Almost 5.07 million people work in a U.S. hospital, up 4% from the same time last year. Even though hospitals have consolidated into larger systems, their payrolls continue to expand, indicating their increased scale hasn't always translated into promised efficiencies.
Employment at ambulatory settings increased by 19,300 people. Within that total, doctors' offices hired 2,000 employees, home health agencies added 3,500 employees and outpatient centers employed an addition 6,400 people. Nursing and residential-care facilities added just 2,000 jobs last month.
The nation's unemployment rate held steady at 5%.