Healthcare Sector Online Job Ads Remain Sluggish

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , December 3, 2009

A new report shows that the growth of overall online job listings in most employment sectors was sluggish in November, and fell slightly among healthcare practitioners, technicians, and support personnel.

The Conference Board's Help Wanted Online Data Series report, which tracks more than 1,000 online job boards across the United States, found that advertised vacancies for healthcare practitioners and technical occupations fell by 36,000 listings in November, for a total of 497,400. There were 533,300 such job vacancy listings in October, and 604,700 in November 2008.

For all industries, online job demand grew by 106,500 advertised vacancies in November. "Since April, when labor demand bottomed, monthly gains can only be described as sluggish," said Gad Levanon, senior economist at The Conference Board. "We have yet to see a significant increase in employers' demand for labor, and, until we see job openings pick up, it will be hard to bring down the unemployment rate. The gap between the number of unemployed and the number of advertised vacancies is about 12.3 million, with 4.8 unemployed for every online advertised vacancy."

Healthcare is a large and broad field, and the report noted the relative tightness of the labor market varies substantially from the highly specialized, highly skilled, and higher-paying practitioner and technical jobs to the lower-paying support occupations.

In October, for every unemployed person looking for work in a healthcare practitioner or technical occupation, such as occupational therapist or registered nurse, there were 3.7 advertised vacancies. The average wage in these occupations is $32.64/hour.

Demand for lower-paying healthcare support occupations fell by 500 listings in November—to 102,700. The average wage for healthcare support occupations, such as pharmacy aides or dental assistants, is $12.66/hour, while the number of unemployed outnumbers advertised vacancies three to one. "Demand for healthcare support workers has remained relatively steady throughout the recession although the number of unemployed seeking work in this field has risen as the recession deepened," the report stated.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases its employment statistics for November Friday, has shown that the healthcare sector is one of the few areas in the economy that has seen monthly job growth throughout the recession, although that growth has slowed considerably in 2009.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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