Federal employment data show the healthcare industry is entering a promising recovery. While hospitals still lost jobs in May, they did so at about one-fifth the level of the prior month.
Hospitals shed 26,700 jobs last month, preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show. While far from normal, it's not nearly as steep as the BLS' estimate that they lost 135,000 jobs at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April. Several health systems, including UW Medicine in Seattle and Cape Cod Health Care in Massachusetts, announced new furloughs in May and others, including Essentia Health in Minnesota, laid off workers.
The U.S. healthcare industry added an estimated 312,400 jobs in May, a dramatic upswing after having lost 1.4 million jobs in April, with all of last month's job growth taking place in the ambulatory sector.
"I was a bit surprised by that much growth given the extent of the full shutdown that we saw in the segment," said Ash Shehata, KPMG's national sector leader for healthcare & life sciences. "But it is also a reminder: As we start to forecast the recovery, we probably need to forecast a different recovery for healthcare."
The jobs data highlights healthcare's resiliency relative to other industries and suggests it might see a V-shaped recovery marked by a sharp decline and a rapid bounce back, Shehata said.
April contains most of the economic damage from the pandemic, as many providers stopped performing non-emergent procedures in late March and resumed them in May. A Kaufman Hall analysis found April was the worst month ever for hospital operating margins.