Healthcare Sector Props Up March Jobs Report

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , April 8, 2013

"It's not a big deal," he says. "If you look at the trend in healthcare jobs, the number of healthcare jobs that the economy has been adding on a monthly basis beginning in 2009 is very steady. There are fluctuations from month to month, but they are subject to revision."

Slightly more than 14.5 million people worked in the healthcare sector in March, with more than 4.8 million of those jobs at hospitals and more than 6.4 million jobs in ambulatory services, which includes more than 2.4 million jobs in physicians' offices.

BLS data from February and March are preliminary. "Keep in mind these numbers are going to be subject to revision," Hanson says. "The BLS made provisions that added 75,000 from previous reports in this edition. Just because growth appears weak for a month doesn't mean it is going to be weak in the long run. You have to look more at long-run growth trends in healthcare and the overall job market."

In the larger economy, the nation's unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged at 7.6% in March. New jobs were largely clustered in the professional and business services sector (51,000), construction (18,000), and healthcare (23,400). However, retail trade shed 24,000 jobs. Within the government sector, U.S. Postal Service employment fell by 12,000 jobs.

BLS said 11.7 million people were unemployed for the March, which is a slight improvement 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 4.6 million in March, and represented 39.6% of the unemployed.

"The report overall was underwhelming—88,000 jobs in March after 237,000 jobs in February," Hanson says. "The unemployment rate fell, but mostly for bad reasons. More people were leaving the workforce than jobs were being added. People shouldn't interpret the falling unemployment rate as a good sign. Really it's about the number of jobs we are adding each month. Sometimes people inflate the importance of these monthly numbers, and really it's more important to look at the long-run trends."

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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