Hospitals record third straight month of job losses

Hospitals shed more jobs in March—their third straight month of losses—as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the healthcare industry.

New federal jobs data show that even as other industries saw strong employment rebounds last month, healthcare hiring was mostly flat. Healthcare employment inched up less than 0.1% from February, recording just 11,500 new hires. Hospital’s losses were compounded by a decline in residential care employment and weak hiring in the ambulatory sector, which typically carries the industry.

The underwhelming healthcare news comes as total employment across all industries increased by 916,000 in March and the unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points to 6%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found. Almost 20% of the jobs gained were in food services and drinking places. Public and private education also saw strong growth, as did construction and professional and business services.

Total U.S. employment is still down by 8.4 million jobs, or 5.5%, from its pre-pandemic peak in February 2020.

The March report shows hospitals have shed jobs in each of the first three months of 2021. Hospital employment—which stands at 5.1 million—shrunk to the tune of 600 jobs last month, representing a -0.01% change.

Hiring in healthcare’s largest employment sector, ambulatory services, grew just 0.2% in March, adding 15,300 jobs. The ambulatory sector employed 7.7 million people last month, the same as in February.

Within ambulatory, offices of other healthcare practitioners saw the highest growth, adding 7,500 jobs and growing total employment by 0.8%. Home health added 4,200 jobs, up 0.3%.

Physicians’ offices added 2,900 jobs last month, although total employment was up just 0.1%. Dentists’ offices added 1,000 jobs. Outpatient care centers added just 100 jobs, while medical and diagnostic laboratories added zero.

Nursing homes were finally able to stem their job losses in March for the first time in more than a year. The sector added 1,700 jobs last month, a welcome respite from continual losses the sector has weathered since even before March 2020. Nursing home employment stood at 1.4 million last month, 173,600 fewer jobs than in March 2020.

It wasn’t all good news for the nursing and residential care sector, however. Community care facilities for the elderly lost 2,800 jobs last month, and other residential care facilities shed 1,400 jobs. Residential mental health facilities lost 700 jobs.


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