Hospital Payroll Growth Stalls

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , June 5, 2009

Hospital payroll growth continued to sputter in May, with only 300 payroll additions reported in the entire nation, Bureau of Labor Statistics data released today show. By comparison, the hospital sector added 16,800 jobs in May 2008, and 8,700 jobs in May 2007, BLS data show.

Overall, the healthcare sector—from physicians' offices, to residential mental health homes, to blood and organ banks—reported 23,500 payroll additions in May. That's a slight increase in the average monthly gain since January but well off the average gain of 30,000 payroll additions per month in 2008, BLS data show.

In the first five months of 2009, the nation's hospitals reported 11,500 payroll additions, compared with 60,600 payroll additions in the first five months of 2008, and 37,000 additions for the same period in 2007. BLS reports that there were 4.7 million hospital payroll jobs at the end of May, 2009.

If hospital payroll increases continue at this pace, fewer than 25,000 new jobs will be created in 2009, as compared with 137,100 new hospital jobs in 2008; 105,700 new jobs in 2007; and 81,400 new jobs in 2006, according to BLS data.

Ambulatory healthcare continued to see the fastest payroll additions in the overall healthcare sector, with 17,600 payroll additions in May, and 72,000 payroll additions since Jan. 1.

Even with the slowing payroll additions, the hospital and healthcare sectors are still outperforming the overall economy. BLS reports that nonfarm payroll employment fell by 345,000 as the nation's unemployment rate rose from 8.9% to 9.4%.

The number of unemployed people increased by 787,000 to 14.5 million in May. Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 7 million, and the unemployment rate has grown by 4.5 percentage points.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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