Hospitals See First Employment Dip in Years

April 6, 2009
Joblessness in America continued climbing swiftly in March as even the stalwart health care sector showed signs of weakness, including a small but notable drop in employment at hospitals.

For the first time since the recession began in December 2007, hospitals posted a decline in employment, following waves of mass layoffs that spiked in September and have remained higher than normal ever since. Preliminary seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics say the number of hospital workers decreased by 700 in March, less than a tenth of a percent of the 4.71 million hospital workforce.

During the 16 months of the recession, hospitals gained an average of 9,700 workers per month. The last time hospitals posted a decline in employment was June 2004, historical data show.

The health care sector overall grew in March by 13,500 jobs, a slowdown from the average growth rate of 30,000 jobs per month in 2008. Most of the growth was in ambulatory health care services, including physician offices, which added 3,200 workers in March, a gain of more than 0.1 percent for a workforce that stands at 2.31 million.

The economy as a whole lost 663,000 jobs in March, increasing national unemployment to 8.5 percent

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

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