Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, CES6562100001, CES6562200001, CES6562300001, Plus Sum of All Three Components
For years, the U.S. health care sector has demonstrated remarkable durability with respect to annual and monthly job growth and has weathered significant downturns, such as the Great Recession and other less impactful recessions. In fact, the resistance of this sector to job cuts during these downturns has led some to refer to it as a “recession-resistant” component of the U.S. economy.1 Unexpectedly, it appears that a global viral pandemic—a time of urgent need—will lay bare vulnerabilities underlying the U.S. health care system. The ongoing challenges in the health care sector first appeared as a crack in March 2020 (–40,000 jobs), followed by the opening of a chasm in April 2020 (–1.4 million jobs).
The monthly jobs report for May 2020 brought some good news. Broadly, the U.S. economy added more than 2.5 million payroll jobs and the unemployment rate dropped significantly. Within the health care sector, more than 300,000 workers returned to jobs in May. While May’s increases were limited to the ambulatory health care services (AHCS) component, the pace of job losses slowed in the other two health care components, raising hopes of a rebound across all components in June’s report.
Indeed, the good employment news continued in June 2020, with the U.S. economy adding 4.8 million payroll jobs, as the unemployment rate fell to 11.1%. In health care, more than 350,000 jobs were added. By component, AHCS and hospitals both added jobs, while nursing and residential care facilities posted another monthly loss.
In July and August 2020, the U.S. added another 1.7 and 1.4 million jobs, respectively—continuing the recovery, albeit at a slower pace, and helping push down the unemployment rate to 8.4% in August 2020. Recovery in the health care sector also continued, as more than 200,000 jobs were added in July and August 2020, cumulatively, with increases seen in the AHCS and hospitals components. By contrast, the nursing and residential care facilities component saw yet more losses in both months, consistent with near-term and long-term downward trends.
1 M.L. Dolfman, et al. Healthcare jobs and the Great Recession. Monthly Labor Review. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2018/article/healthcare-jobs-and-the-great-recession.htm. Accessed April 2020.