Health sector's share of US jobs hits new high
The healthcare sector added 24,000 new jobs in April, and represented nearly 11% of all U.S. jobs, a new high, Altarum reported.
April’s healthcare job gains were close to the 25,500 monthly average over the past year. Hospitals added 8,000 jobs in the month and ambulatory settings picked up 16,900 jobs.
During the first quarter, health spending growth increased by 5%. That eclipsed the growth of the three previous quarters (4.2%, 4.7% and 4.6%, respectively).
Job growth remains steady and the health sector continues to help drive the U.S. economy and monthly job gains. Altarum said job growth has stabilized at about 2%, which is better than the 1.5% growth for non-healthcare jobs.
Issues could be on the horizon with finding qualified employees. The health sector is now roughly at full employment. “Notably, this does not resolve the continuing tension over whether the U.S. economy is too reliant on the health sector for employment stability and growth,” according to the report.
Hospitals added 8,000 jobs in April, which is generally consistent with the 7,900-job average in 2017 and continues the growth in hiring seen in recent years.
National health spending remained at 18.1% GDP, about $3.62 trillion, as of March.
Spending growth is an area of concern, especially since it comes at the same time that fewer people are insured. Gallup recently reported that the uninsured rate rose significantly in 17 states in 2017. That was the first time any state saw such an increase since the federal government implemented the major pieces of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, Altarum said.
“While [the spending growth] is only a mild acceleration from the 4.6% growth in 2017, it comes even as healthcare coverage has declined, Altarum Fellow Charles Roehrig said in a statement.
Altarum found the Health Care Price Index increased by 2.2% in April compared to a year ago. That was the highest rate since January 2012.
Hospital price growth was the main driver, especially Medicare, which was at 4.6%, its highest rate since November 2009. Another factor was private hospital price growth at 3.8%. That was the highest rate since the private-only data series was created in June 2014.
That spending growth is helping Americans rethink how they interact with the healthcare system.
A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that two-thirds of U.S. adults are very or somewhat confident that they could afford healthcare if they came down with a serious illness. That’s down from 70% in 2015. Confidence is lower for younger people, women, people with lower incomes, people with existing health problems and those between the ages of 50 and 64, according to the Commonwealth Fund report.