Healthcare Job Growth Slows in March, but Q1 Strong

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , April 9, 2012

Murphy says there is also continued demand for healthcare IT staff to help implement meaningful use and address other issues related to electronic medical records. "We are always looking for good clinical IT people, just like everybody else," she says.

Revised BLS figures show that healthcare created 42,200 jobs in February, continuing a strong trend in job growth that saw 296,900 payroll additions in 2011. Healthcare accounted for more than 18% of new jobs in the overall economy last year, BLS data shows.

Murphy says the drop in healthcare job growth in March could be linked to most health systems’ budget cycles. "This may be too simple an answer but there is a little bit of a pent up demand until budgets are approved," she says. "If a hospital is on a calendar year budgets get approved in late fall, December and they have these new FTEs they have approved. So we tend to have active hiring because we have positions that have been approved in the budget process."

More than 14.2 million people worked in the healthcare sector in March, with more than 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.

In 2011, the 296,900 jobs created by healthcare represented more than 18% of the 1.6 million jobs created in the overall economy that year.

BLS data from February and March are preliminary and may be revised considerably in the coming months.

In the larger economy, the nation's unemployment rate dropped from 8.3% in February to 8.2% in March, with 120,000 new jobs reported for the month. BLS said the jobs created in March came mostly from healthcare, manufacturing, and food service.

Even with the modest gains, BLS said 12.7 million people were unemployed in March, slightly improved from February’s measure. The number of long-term unemployed, defined as those who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, was little changed at 5.3 million in March, and represented 42.5% of the unemployed.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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