Healthcare employment saw modest uptick in May

The healthcare industry grew to the tune of 22,500 jobs in May, preliminary federal data show.

Healthcare’s employment recovery has so far been sluggish since its April 2020 nosedive amid COVID-19 shutdowns, so the uptick more than a year later is welcome news. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that employment across all sectors grew by an estimated 559,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate declined by 0.3 percentage points to 5.8%.

As usual, most of healthcare’s job gains in May—98%—were in the ambulatory sector. Outpatient services have had an easier time rebounding than inpatient ones as patients avoid hospitals during the pandemic, although that trend could be turning a corner as COVID cases decline and vaccination rates rise.

Offices of other health practitioners saw the biggest gains last month, adding an estimated 7,600 jobs. Below that was dental clinics, which added an estimated 4,700 jobs. Outpatient care center employment ticked up by 3,900, the preliminary numbers show.

Growth in other ambulatory areas wasn’t quite as high. Physicians’ offices added just 1,800 jobs, while home health added 2,200 jobs.

Hospital employment grew by 2,900 jobs in May, per the preliminary numbers. That’s up from a loss of 1,400 jobs in April, a number the BLS revised up from a much steeper loss. The government revised its total healthcare employment total to a gain of 8,100 in April. Its preliminary report showed the industry shed thousands of jobs that month.

Nursing homes, the sector hardest hit by the pandemic, added an estimated 1,000 jobs in May. That’s after shedding almost 18,000 jobs in April.

Residential mental health facilities contracted by an estimated 2,500 jobs in May, and community care facilities for the elderly lost 300 jobs.

The BLS data show more people are returning to offices. In May, 16.6% of employed people worked remotely because of the pandemic, down from 18.3% in the prior month.

Total nonfarm employment in May was still down 5% from its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The biggest gains were in leisure and hospitality, which added 292,000 jobs as pandemic-related restrictions continue to lift. Almost two-thirds of that increase was in food services and drinking places. Educational services added 40,700 jobs as in-person learning resumes.


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