Healthcare Hiring Boom Buoys Job Market

A white-hot healthcare sector powered an much of the job growth in the past six months, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

(Photo credit: CDC/Unsplash)

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Say what you will about aging baby boomers. If it weren’t for them – and their growing reliance on healthcare workers – the labor market might look a lot less peachy.

The American labor market has remained quite strong all year, even if it’s just starting to cool off. Much of that robustness, it turns out, can be attributed to a white-hot healthcare sector, which powered an extraordinary amount of job growth in the past six months, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Labor Department data published this weekend.

The Graying Zone

The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.9% in October, up slightly from the historically low 3.4% earlier this year. The bump higher tracks with a widely expected slowdown in economic growth as the calendar turns over, which would likely coincide with a widespread hiring freeze, if not layoffs.

But boomers may be putting their fingers on the scale yet again. By decade’s end, a full 21% of the country is expected to be eligible for senior-citizen discounts, an increase from 17% in 2020 and 13% in 2010, according to the US Census Bureau. The graying shift is already straining a healthcare system starved for labor following a pandemic that bred burnout and early retirements.

In response, the industry is hiring up a storm:

  • In the six months through October, the healthcare industry accounted for 30% of jobs added in the US, with its workers representing roughly 11% of the total labor force. In October, healthcare, government, and hospitality fueled virtually all job growth.
  • The hiring offset a high amount of churn: In September, the number of healthcare workers quitting their jobs was 22% higher than the pre-pandemic average in 2019.

Stable Condition: Stress and staff shortages aside, healthcare workers can take solace in the relative stability of the job — the work will continue to be essential, and recent history says your paystub may reflect that, too. Healthcare payrolls were up over 4% in the third quarter, according to WSJ analysis, faster than the 3% pace seen earlier this year, and better than growth of just over 1% seen by all other workers. Maybe health does in fact make wealth.