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The nation’s hospitals lost roughly 8,000 jobs during the month of September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week.
Nursing and residential care facilities also had decreases in employment, resulting in about 37,600 jobs lost last month. Meanwhile, ambulatory care centers, including physicians and dentist offices, and medical laboratories, added approximately 28,200 jobs.
Overall, healthcare employment fell by 17,500 in September to sit at just under 16 million. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare employment has dropped by 524,000, with nursing and residential care facilities accounting for about four-fifths of the loss, according to the BLS.
Despite losses in healthcare, total employment rose by 194,000 in September, resulting in a slight decrease in the country’s unemployment rate to 4.8%. Substantial job increases occurred across leisure and hospitality (74,000), professional and business services (60,000), retail trade (56,000), and transportation and warehousing (47,000).
WHY THIS MATTERS
The BLS’ report comes amid what some have called a national crisis of healthcare labor shortages.
The nursing sector is particularly troublesome as only 1% of the nation’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a full staff, according to a recent survey from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).
Labor shortages are adding to hospitals’ already precarious financial situations by putting pressure on their recruitment and retention strategies, in turn driving up wages. For instance, hospitals and health systems across the country are paying $24 billion more per year for qualified clinical labor than they did pre-pandemic, according to a recent Premier report.
THE LARGER TREND
Healthcare worker shortages have been an issue even before COVID-19 added to it. For example, an Association of American Medical Colleges study from 2019 predicted that the U.S. could see an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034.
Last month, when President Biden issued his vaccine mandate that requires all healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals to get vaccinated against COVID-19, some feared it could exacerbate those long-standing problems.
While a number of hospitals have lost employees due to vaccine mandates or faced legal pushback, experts say burnout remains the driving force of labor shortages.
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