Health care employment rising, but still lower than pre-pandemic levels

Sector had 16.26 million workers in May, topping levels from month before and from May 2021.

Health care employment rose by 28,300 jobs in May but remained lower than levels than February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, total nonfarm employment rose by 390,000 in May, with the national jobless rate remaining at 3.6% for the third month in a row. There were 6 million unemployed workers “little different” from measures in February 2020, when the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent with 5.7 million workers without jobs.

The figures were in the May unemployment report published June 3 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Health care

Employment in health care increased last month to more than 16.26 million workers. That figure was up from 16.23 million in April and up from about 16.01 million in May 2021, but down by 223,000 workers, or 1.3%, from February 2020, according to the report.

There were 8.12 million workers in ambulatory health care services, up from about 8.11 million the month before and up from 7.84 million in May last year.

That group included 2.81 million in offices of physicians in May 2021, about the same as April and up from 2.72 million in May 2021. Outpatient care centers had about 1.01 million workers, roughly the same as April and up from 993,700 in May 2021. Also in that group, workers in dentist offices and were steady at about 1.02 million, and employment in other health practitioners dipped to 1.06 million in May, from about 1.07 million in April.

Hospitals had 5.16 million workers in May, up from 5.14 million in April and up from 5.12 million in May last year, according to the report.

Pandemic effects

BLS said May 2022 had notable employment gains in leisure and hospitality, professional business services, and in transportation and warehousing, while employment declined in retail trade. But COVID-19 continues to affect the national figures.

In May, 1.8 million workers reported they were unable to work, or worked fewer hours in the four weeks preceding the survey, because their employer closed or lost businesses due to the pandemic, the report said. Among those workers, 19.9% received at least some pay from their employers for hours not worked. Both measures were little changed from April, the report said.

Last month, 7.4% of employees teleworked because of the pandemic, down from 7.7% in April. The data measure people who teleworked or worked from home at some point in the preceding four weeks, due to the pandemic.

Among those not in the labor force in May, 455,000 were prevented from looking for work due to the pandemic, down from 586,000 in April, the report said.

BLS considers the figures preliminary and subject to revision.