Healthcare job growth jumped in late 2014, future outlook improves

January 21, 2015

Despite conflicting reports of healthcare worker surpluses and shortages, a new study says future job security and growth looks bright for healthcare workers.

The Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending revealed in its annual Health Sector Trend Report that jobs and spending in healthcare was on the rise in 2015, and the future outlook is positive.

Healthcare spending grew by 5% throughout the third quarter of 2014, compared to a 3.6% growth rate in 2013. The report attributes the growth to higher prescription drug spending due to fewer drugs hitting the generic market rather than any type of expanded coverage due to healthcare reform.

Spending on healthcare services grew as well, and can be more readily attributed to expanded coverage resulting form healthcare reforms. According to the Altarum report, healthcare service spending increased by 5.4% in the third quarter of 2014 compared to 3.3% during the first two quarters of the year. Prices are rising slowly, but too slowly (0.5% per year) to take credit for the increase in spending alone. The report indicates that the rate for health care service utilization has grown up about 2.5% per year over the last several years.

“Since 2005, the cumulative growth in health care services utilization has exceeded the growth in healthcare services jobs by nearly 4%. Most of this apparent increase in productivity has occurred in the past three years,” the report states.

Additionally, the report found that monthly health sector job growth experienced a recent 50% jump, both in states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not.

According to the Altarum report, job growth increased by 33% over last year for the third quarter, with an average of 27,000 employees added in the third quarter of 2013 compared to 36,000 added in the third quarter of 2014.

December 2014 totals posted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates 311,000 healthcare jobs were added in 2014 as a whole, with 34,100 jobs added in December along. BLS data placed healthcare growth at 2.1% overall for 2014, only slightly above the average annual growth rate of 2.4%.

Ambulatory care positions are taking up the bulk of the growth, with hospitals falling below the average. According to BLS, about 230,000 of the 311,000 healthcare jobs added in 2014 were in ambulatory care, compared to 47,000 jobs added in the hospital setting.