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Hospitals led all sectors on the healthcare hiring front in December, but the industry’s employment recovery continues to be a tough slog.
Hospitals added an estimated 31,500 jobs in December, which is better than the sector has done in months and represents an increase of 0.6% from the previous month, preliminary numbers released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show. The job growth is up significantly from just 7,600 added in November.
Healthcare overall added 38,800 jobs in December, an increase of 25% from the 31,000 jobs added in November—a number the government revised down significantly from its preliminary estimate. The 16 million Americans working in the healthcare industry last much was up 0.2% from the November total.
Total nonfarm employment in the country actually shrunk by 140,000 jobs in December, although the unemployment rate held steady at 6.7%. The BLS attributed the decline to spikes in COVID-19 cases and efforts to control the pandemic.
The pace of hiring lagged in healthcare’s ambulatory sector. The estimated 20,700 ambulatory jobs added last month represented an increase of 0.3%, but was down from 34,400 new hires in November, a number that has been revised down from its earlier estimate.
The preliminary December numbers show physician office hiring was basically flat, as was medical and diagnostic laboratories. It appears to have been a strong month for dentists’ offices, which added an estimated 4,600 jobs, up from 2,900 in November.
New home health hires were down significantly in December with just 1,500 jobs added, per the government’s estimate. However, that’s after a very strong November in which home health added 12,800 jobs.
Outpatient care center hiring was down last month, having added an estimated 4,300 jobs last month, compared with 7,200 in November.
December was another rocky month for nursing homes, which shed an estimated 6,100 jobs. That’s half the number of jobs they lost in November, however. Community care facilities for the elderly lost an estimated 5,000 jobs in December, a noteworthy swing from their 3,900-job gain in November.
The number of people on temporary layoff increased by an estimated 277,000 to 3 million in December, according to the BLS. While down considerably from the high of 18 million in April, that’s still higher than the 2.3 million people on temporary layoff in February. The number of permanent job losers—3.4 million in December—is up by 2.1 million since February.
The BLS noted that more people worked from home because of the pandemic in December: 23.7% of employed people, compared with 21.8% in November. The number of people who said they couldn’t work last month because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic grew by 1 million people compared with November.