Examining Health Care Employment: The Prognosis Is Good

Volume 13, Number 3
Third Quarter 2011

The health care industry stands out in an ailing job market as one of the few industries to experience robust job growth during the 2007–9 recession and the ongoing recovery.

In "Exploring Health Care Employment: The Prognosis Is Good," featured in the third-quarter issue of EconSouth, associate editor Nancy Condon looks at the reasons for the industry's robust growth, as well as some challenges threatening to slow it down.

Despite widespread job losses nationally and in the Southeast, health care has added jobs every month since July 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most recently, in July, the sector added 31,000 jobs—roughly 26 percent of net gains across all industries, Condon writes. In the Southeast, which lost 148,000 jobs from May to June, health care added 700. Health care also remained strong during the recessions in 2001 and 1990–1.

So what makes health care seemingly immune to the economic malaise affecting many other industries? Rising demand for health care is one driving factor, says Condon, pointing to the growing and aging United States population.

Although health care continuously added jobs during the 2007–9 recession, growth was still slower than in the previous two recessions. The length and severity of the most recent downturn is one of the biggest reasons for the slower job growth, explained Catherine Wood, a BLS economist interviewed for the article. Strained federal and state government budgets, cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and uncertainty about upcoming changes in health care also present significant challenges to the industry, Condon notes.

Nevertheless, the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) published by the BLS projects employment rates for the industry ranging from 10 to 26 percent in the decade from 2008–18. Further, eight of the top 20 fastest growing jobs identified by the OOH are related to health care, she writes.

To read more about the health care's positive contributions to the employment situation, read the full story in the latest issue of EconSouth, available online or in print.