Health care employment rates hit pre-pandemic levels

Some sectors fare better than others, but health care employment is most recovered from the big drops that occurred during COVID.

Health care employers added 44,200 jobs in February, consistent with the 12-month average of 49,100, according to a report from Altarum. Hospitals led health care job growth in February, adding 19,400 jobs, while nursing and residential care facilities added 13,700 and ambulatory settings added 11,100 jobs.

Health care employment is now just above where it was in February 2020 before the pandemic (207,000 jobs or 1.3% above), but not every setting has fared equally, according to the report. For example, hospital employment is close to the level from three years ago – 42,000 jobs or 0.8% above – ambulatory care is well above where it was (nearly 440,000 jobs or 5.6% above), while nursing and residential care employment remains more than 270,000 jobs below the level of three years ago.

The distribution of health care jobs has shifted over the past three years, according to Altarum. Ambulatory care settings now represent almost half (49.8%) compared to 47.7% in 2020, while nursing and residential represent 18.6%, compared to 20.5% in 2020. Hospital jobs continue to represent about one-third of the total health care market at 31.6% in February, compared to 31.8% in 2020. Jobs in physician offices, a subset of the ambulatory numbers, saw a 3.1% year over year increase.

The report notes that wage growth in health care has been declining since mid-2022 and has now fallen slightly below economywide wage growth. In January 2023, health care wages grew by 4.2% year over year while total private sector wages grew by 4.4%. Wages are growing slightly faster in nursing and residential care at 5% year over year. For hospitals, wage growth fell in January to 4.4%, while ambulatory care saw wage growth fall to 3.6%.

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