More than half a million health care workers were hired last year. We still need more.
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The care economy in America is bustling. The U.S. added an average of 49,000 health care jobs each month last year, according to the new jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than five times the 2021 monthly average.
That means we’re back at pre-pandemic levels of health care workers. Back in 2020, a lot of health care workers burned out and left their jobs.
“The working conditions were terrible, said Monica O’Reilly-Jacob, who studies nursing as a professor at Boston College. “Nurses had lots of dependents that they needed to be taking care of; they couldn’t manage daycare. So there was a significant drop in the workforce.”
Last year, some of those workers returned, and new ones entered the field. O’Reilley-Jacob says that’s good because now, we’re all very interested in getting the health care that we didn’t get at the height of the pandemic.
“So all those elective surgeries that were put on hold,” she said. “We’re slowly sort of working our way through the queue on those.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care employment is expected to grow by 13% in the next decade. That’s much faster than the average for all occupations.
“It is a sector where there’s some element of inelastic demand,” said Veronica Clark, an economist at Citi. “You know, it is a pretty recession-proof sector.”
The aging American population needs this sector to grow, according to William Dombi, who leads the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, a trade group. He says the pandemic elevated the level of care that patients could get at home, and that the public wants more of that.
“Many people are taking further steps to try to avoid going into a nursing facility setting for care,” Dombi said.
Dombi says this is likely growing the number of health care jobs, and that some of his members have had to turn down customers because they don’t have enough staff.
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