- The healthcare industry added more than 650,000 jobs in 2023, growing at its fastest rate in more than three decades, according to a report from nonprofit research consultancy Altarum.
- Growth in ambulatory care and hospital jobs propelled 3.9% annual employment growth in the sector, according to the report. Although nursing and residential care employment increased compared to 2022, rates still trailed pre-pandemic levels.
- The sector has been steadily adding jobs since 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth may be a result of increased demand for services and a need to replace workers who left during the “Great Resignation” of 2021 and 2022, according to the report.
The healthcare industry hemorrhaged workers during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as employees burned out, left for opportunities in other fields or retired early.
Healthcare jobs largely recovered from early pandemic losses by October 2022, according to BLS data. But executives have continued to wring their hands about recruitment and retention. Credit agencies, such as Fitch Ratings, have said recruitment is the single largest issue facing health systems today.
Yet, the industry is expanding, according to the Altarum report. In 2023, the industry hired more prolifically than it has in the last three decades, outpacing other industries more than two-fold.
Job growth primarily occurred in ambulatory service centers. Health system executives have touted ambulatory care as an area of focus for 2024 as patient preferences evolve to favor outpatient settings.
Since 2020, ambulatory care jobs have grown 9.2%, according to the report. Across 2023, ambulatory care settings added 26,700 jobs per month on average, while hospitals added 15,300.
However, it’s still proven difficult to attract staff at nursing and residential homes. Nursing facilities added approximately 5,800 jobs per month and residential care facilities added 6,800 new jobs per month in the past year.
While wage growth dipped for the healthcare sector overall between 2022 and 2023, wage growth was the highest for nursing and residential positions, suggesting companies may be paying more at baseline to attract talent, according to the report.
The contraction of positions is also likely due to nursing home closures, lower resident censuses and staffing shortages, according to the report.
Last fall, the Biden administration proposed a rule that would require long-term care facilities to beef up staffing. However, lobbying organizations and trade groups have opposed the rule, saying that the policies are prohibitive in the current staffing climate.