The healthcare industry reported another month of strong job growth in May, outpacing the rest of the economy in hiring.
The healthcare industry was among the nation's top generators of jobs last month, with 24,300 new hires in May, according to the most recent jobs report issued Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payroll creation in healthcare was solid last month even as overall job growth fell below expectations. The economy added 138,000 non-farm jobs, which disappointed analysts who predicted about 185,000 jobs would be produced.
The unemployment rate fell to a 16-year low at 4.3%, likely due to less participation in the labor market. Labor force participation was at 62.7%, representing a 0.2 percentage point decline.
The low unemployment rate likely clears the way for the Federal Reserve to raise the benchmark interest rates later this month.
The 24,300 new healthcare hires in May boosted total sector employment to 15.7 million. The new jobs were on pace with the 24,600 jobs created in April.
Ambulatory care services once again led the charge in job growth in May, adding 12,600 jobs. Hospitals hired an additional 7,400 workers last month.
Even with these gains, jobs in the healthcare sector are growing at a slower pace compared to last year. The industry has added an average of 22,000 jobs per month so far this year, compared to an average monthly gain of 32,000 in 2016.
Healthcare hiring is shrouded by ongoing efforts by the GOP to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. A report by the Commonwealth Fund found that repealing key provisions of the ACA, particularly the insurance premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion, could cause the sector to lose 2.9 million jobs by 2019.
In spite of the uncertainty, the industry still needs workers to care for the aging baby boomer population. There is also growing emphasis around early and preventive care, which supports continued job growth.