Health care employment grows, but national jobless rate creeps up in August

Sector had 16.45 million jobs last month, according to federal figures.

Health care employment grew by 48,000 jobs in August, making it the second-largest growth sector as national unemployment crept up 0.2 percentage points to 3.7%.

On Sept. 2, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its preliminary job figures for August, with additional gains posted in professional and business services and retail trade.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 315,000 jobs in August, and by 5.8 million jobs in the last year, bringing total nonfarm employment 240,000 jobs greater than the pre-pandemic of February 2020.

Health care

Health care employment has added 412,000 jobs over the last year, but as a sector remained below the pre-pandemic level of February 2020 by 37,000 jobs, or 0.2%., according to the BLS report.

In August the health care sector had 16.45 million jobs. That included adding 21,900 jobs in ambulatory health care services for a monthly total of 8.21 million jobs; 15,200 jobs in physician offices, for an August total of 2.85 million jobs; 4,600 jobs in outpatient care centers, for an August total of 1.03 million jobs; and 1,600 jobs in other ambulatory health care services, for a total of 318,600 jobs.

There were 14,700 jobs added in hospitals, for an August total of almost 5.21 million jobs.

Jobs in nursing and residential care facilities grew by 11,600, for an August total of 3.02 million jobs. That included adding 4,100 jobs in residential mental health facilities for an August total of 611,000 jobs; 3,600 jobs in community care facilities for the elderly for an August total of 897,900 jobs; and 2,300 jobs in nursing care facilities, for an August total of 1.36 million jobs.

Other sectors

Professional and business services added 68,000 jobs last month, with gains of 14,000 jobs in computer systems design and related services, 13,000 jobs in management and technical consulting services, 10,000 positions in architectural and engineering services, and 6,000 jobs in scientific research and development, the BLS report said.

Retail trade grew by 44,000 jobs in August, with 15,000 new jobs each in general merchandise stores and food and beverage stores, 10,000 new posts in health and personal care stores, and 7,000 new jobs in building material and garden supply stores.

Both those sectors posted some losses: 9,000 jobs in legal services and 3,000 in furniture and home furnishing stores, the BLS report said.

Manufacturing grew by 22,000 jobs in August, financial activities rose by 17,000 posts, wholse trade added 15,000 jobs and mining added 6,000 jobs. Employment in leisure and hospitality grew by 31,000, but remained below the February 2020 level by 1.2 million, or 7.2%. Construction, transportation and warehousing, information, and government sectors showed little change for the month, the BLS report said.

National rates

The national jobless rate rose with the number of unemployed people growing by 344,000 to 6 million. BLS reported in July, the measures that month returned to the levels of February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the pandemic has lingering effects: In August, 1.9 million people reported they were unable to work, or they worked fewer hours in the last four weeks, because their employers closed or lost business because of COVID-19. That number was down from 2.2 million in July.

Telework also inched downward, with 6.5% of employees reporting they teleworked, or worked from home in the last four weeks, down from 7.1% in July.