Health Sector Employment Surge Intensifies

ANN ARBOR — Employment in healthcare ended 2014 with a strong surge in job growth, according to the latest figures from the Ann Arbor-based healthcare consultants Altarum Institute.

According to the Health Sector Economic Indicators report from Altarum’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending, the health sector added 34,100 new jobs in December, and saw upward revisions of 17,800 in October and November.

The fourth-quarter increase of 108,000 new health jobs was the biggest three-month gain since 2002.

The health share of total employment in the United States rose slightly to 10.63 percent. Notably, the number of non-health jobs has finally returned to the number that existed in late 2007, at the start of the Great Recession.

The report also found that health care prices in November 2014 were 1.6 percent higher than in November 2013, 0.1 percent higher than the October year-over-year rate. Year-over-year hospital prices grew 1.1 percent in November, equal to the October value, a more-than-16-year low. Prescription drug prices rose 4.6 percent, up from 4.1 percent in October, the highest rate since April 2010.

National health spending in November 2014 grew 5.1 percent over November 2013. Incorporating the Quarterly Services Survey, released Dec. 10, Altarum now estimates that national health spending in the third quarter was 5.5 percent greater than in the third quarter of 2013 — the highest growth rate since the first quarter of 2008, when it was 5.8 percent. Spending in November, year over year, increased in all major categories. Spending on prescription drugs grew the fastest, at 10.9 percent.

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“The January jobs report provides our first full look at calendar year 2014 and reveals that the 50 percent increase in health sector job growth experienced in the second and third quarters has intensified in the fourth quarter,” said Charles Roehrig, director of the center. “On average, the fourth quarter added about 36,000 jobs per month, more than twice the 17,000 figure for full-year 2013. December was a noteworthy month for total nonhealth jobs whose number has finally returned to its pre-recession level. In contrast, the health sector has added 1.81 million jobs during this time.”

Altarum provides research and consulting to the healthcare industry, employing about 400 people at its Ann Arbor headquarters and offices in Washington, D.C., Portland, Maine and San Antonio, Texas.

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