Health sector job growth is flat for the first time in a decade, just as health care professionals are in demand mroe than ever.
Health care employment rose by only 2,500 jobs in July 2013, well below the 24-month average of 22,000, and the lowest jump since July 2003, according to the Altarum Institute.
An estimated 30 million more patients, who will be newly insured under Obamacare, is expected to flood the health care system beginning in 2014.
According to Altarum, hospitals lost 4,400 jobs in July, and downward revisions wiped out most of June’s gains. Over the last three months, hospitals cut 13,000 jobs.
“This jibes with reports of unexpectedly low hospital utilization rates and belt tightening in anticipation of very low Medicare payment rate increases,” said Charles Roehrig, director of the Altarum Center, in a press release. “We will be watching hospital jobs closely in the next couple of months to see if this is the start of a longer term trend.”
Nursing and residential care job growth is essentially flat, which could signal concern as the large population of baby boomers age and need long-term care, said Ani Turner, deputy director for Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending.
While the numbers appear startling, Turner says she’s expected to see the decrease in health employment sooner.
“Anecdotally, we’ve know that hospitals have been laying people off,” she said.
The reason for cutbacks is in part due to a reported slowdown in health care spending, hospitals trying to cut back on costs, and continued impact from the recession.
“It is the lowest growth we’ve seen in a decade,” Turner said.
But the trend may significantly change in a couple months due to an “increased demand in services from patients,” she said.
While the report doesn’t identify which occupations are being cut, a shortage of primary care doctors has widely been reported. Many physicians are making the move to hospital employment.
Turner suggested the health care system will respond if and when there’s a “utilization in demand.”
Last week, the Randstad Healthcare Employee Confidence Index reported that though health care workers are in high demand — with the sector experiencing “serious labor shortages” — confidence among health care workers is down. More than half believe fewer job opportunities are available.