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Health care leads job growth for September as national unemployment rate drops to 3.5%

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Feds to revise questions about COVID-19 effects on jobless rate and will ask about telework.

Health care was a leading sector adding jobs in September as the national unemployment rate dropped to 3.5% for September, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Health care employment grew by 60,000 jobs last month and has returned to its pre-pandemic level of February 2020, according to the Employment Situation Summary published Oct. 7 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Around the country, there were 5.8 million unemployed as total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 263,000 jobs. Monthly job growth averaged 420,000 for 2022, compared with 562,000 per month in 2021.

Growing employment

Ambulatory health care services led the growth with 28,100 jobs added in September to 8.24 million jobs, according to the preliminary BLS figures. Hospitals followed with 27,500 positions added last month to a total of 5.24 million jobs.

Home health care services added 10,600 jobs to a total of 1.58 million jobs, and physician offices added 10,200 jobs, rising to 2.85 million positions for September 2022.

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Other health practitioner offices added 4,600 jobs to almost 1.1 million; nursing and residential care facilities added 4,500 to rise to 3.03 million jobs; residential mental health facilities added 2,000 jobs to a total of 615,000 jobs; nursing care facilities added 1,400 positions to rise to 1.36 million; outpatient care centers added 1,400 jobs to rise to 1.03 million; and offices of dentists grew by 1,200 workers for a total of 1.04 million employees. Medical and diagnostic laboratories had a slight tick down in employment, less than 1%, with 315,000 workers in that category.

COVID-19 pandemic effects

In September, 5.2% of workers teleworked because of the pandemic, the BLS report said. That was down from 35.4% in May 2020, the first month for that measure.

There were 1.4 million people reporting they were unable to work because their employer close or lost business due to the pandemic in September. That was down from 1.9 million the month before and down from 49.8 million in May 2020.

The BLS announced the September 2022 report will be the last to include questions and figures that began in May 2020 to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “These questions had become less relevant than they were earlier in the pandemic,” the report said.

BLS will begin surveying with new questions that focus on remote working going forward.

Despite reports of deaths and severe damage due to Hurricane Ian, the BLS survey data was compiled before that storm made landfall in Florida and data collection rates were within normal ranges nationally and for the affected areas.

Other sectors

Leisure and hospitality added 83,000 jobs in September, in line with average monthly gains in the first eight months of 2022. That sector remained below pre-pandemic levels of February 2020 by 1.1 million jobs, or 6.7%.

Professional and business services added 46,000 jobs, below the 2022 monthly job growth average of 72,000 a month. Manufacturing gained 22,000 jobs, construction added 19,000 jobs, and wholesale trade added 11,000 jobs.

Financial activities and transportation employment changed little, with both sectors posting losses of 8,000 positions, according to the BLS report.


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