Health care continued to add jobs in February while the rest of the American job market remained in a free fall.
The overall unemployment rate hit its highest level in nearly three decades, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, as a rise in the rate of job losses so far this year sent the national unemployment rate to 8.1 percent. The last time such a deep recession hit was in 1982, when unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent.
As has been true since the current recession began, health care was a rare source of good news. Hospitals and physician offices have added 47,100 workers in 2009. In February alone, preliminary seasonally adjusted data show that hospitals added about 6,800 workers, a one-month increase of 0.1 percent, bringing total hospital employment to about 4.7 million. For the one-year period that ended in February, hospitals added 131,800 workers, a 2.9 percent increase. That compares with a 2.7 percent increase in the year-ago period.
Physician offices added 6,300 workers last month, a 0.3 percent boost that left total employment at 2.3 million people.