Ambulatory services, which include physicians' offices, accounted for 59% of the job growth in healthcare. The subsector created 11,300 jobs in December and 187,000 jobs in 2011, after creating 166,100 jobs in 2010.
Physicians' offices created 19,000 new jobs in December and 67,600 new jobs in 2011, a near tripling of the 25,300 jobs created in physicians' offices in 2010.
BLS data from November and December are preliminary and may be revised considerably in the coming months.
More than 14.2 million people worked in the healthcare sector at the end of 2011, with nearly 4.8 million of those jobs at hospitals, and more than 6.2 million jobs in ambulatory services, which includes more than 2.3 million jobs in physicians' offices.
The 314,700 jobs created by healthcare represent 19% of the 1.6 million jobs created in the overall economy in 2011.
While there is nothing to indicate that healthcare job growth will slow in 2012, Murphy offered some caveats.
"With healthcare reform it is going to be incumbent upon all of us to be cost efficient," she said. "That is what we are looking at the next couple of years: How can we operate as efficiently as possible? Our reimbursements are going to be lower for the same care. The external pressures are on us to be cost effective. Even if we have a stable workforce, we have cost pressures."
In the larger economy, the nation's unemployment rate dropped from 8.6% to 8.5%—down 0.6% since August, and its lowest level since March 2009. BLS said the 200,000 new jobs created in December came from the healthcare, manufacturing, retail, mining, and transportation sectors.
Nonetheless, 13.1 million people were unemployed in December. The number of long-term unemployed, defined as those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, was little changed at 5.6 million in December, and represented 42.5% of the unemployed.