Health care job growth slowing

The industry is still adding jobs, but uncertainty around health system reform and budget cuts in government programs are causing deceleration.

By — Posted March 25, 2010

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Job growth in the health care industry appears to be slowing, according to government statistics and a recent survey of help-wanted ads.

Industry representatives suggest that possible Medicaid and Medicare cuts, as well as the unknown future of health system reform, have made it difficult for hospitals and other health care institutions to create staffing plans and carry out hiring.

"Hospitals are one of the most stable sources of jobs in our economy today ... but it's going to be tougher and tougher for hospitals to increase the number of jobs," said Sean Prados, executive vice president of the Louisiana Hospital Assn.

Only 900 new jobs were added in physician offices in February, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report on employment released March 5. Hospital payrolls added 1,300 people.

Numbers are preliminary and seasonally adjusted.

The number of jobs added last year in physician offices peaked, on a monthly basis, in November, when 10,500 positions were created. Hospital hiring grew the most in October 2009, when 7,800 jobs were added.

The year 2010 started with the creation of 5,800 additional jobs in physician offices and 7,700 new jobs in hospitals.

Other recent numbers also suggest that job growth in health care may be decelerating.

According to the monthly help wanted advertising report issued by the Conference Board March 1, the number of listings for health care practitioners and technicians decreased by 30,000 in February, falling to 537,000. This was primarily driven by declines in the number of ads for occupational therapists, physical therapists and general internists. Ads for health care support personal also went down by 8,600, to 110,700.

Experts suspect, however, that not all of the advertising decline can be attributed to hiring reductions. Some institutions may have reduced recruiting expenses by using low- or no-cost tools such as social media and listings on their own Web sites.

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