Health Care Lone Bright Spot on Employment Front

January 19, 2009
While the rest of the economy posted rates of joblessness not seen since 1993, health care continued to expand its workforce in December, adding 31,600 positions in a month in which the overall American workforce shrunk by 524,000 jobs.

“The only major private industry sector that continued to add a significant number of jobs was health care,” said Keith Hall, commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a written statement accompanying the latest preliminary statistics. In the last four months of 2008, the national nonfarm economy lost 1.9 million jobs, while health care added 93,200 jobs in that time, according to the seasonally adjusted statistics.

Overall in 2008, the health care workforce grew by 2.8 percent, ending the year with 371,600 more jobs than the year before. Hospitals added 11,900 workers in December to bring the total hospital workforce to about 4.71 million, while physician offices added 5,600 workers to bring the workforce to about 2.3 million. Both sectors posted monthly job growth of 0.2 percent, a rate that has held steady since at least September.

The one area in health care that lost jobs in December was in outpatient-care centers, where 1,100 jobs vanished, a loss of 0.2 percent for the month. But outpatient centers ended 2008 with a workforce of 521,700—1.7 percent more than the year before.

Filed by Joe Carlson of Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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