Health care is where the jobs are. But what kind of jobs?
Industry created 32,000 jobs in November


By RACHEL BLUTH - Kaiser Health News

December 26, 2018

            

Only government, at all levels, adds more workers than the health care industry. But not all new jobs in health care are high skill and highly compensated.

Dreamstime/TNS

More Americans are now employed in health care than in any other industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tallies job creation, says that for most of this year the health sector outpaced the retail industry. Only government, on all levels, employs more people. One of the consistent features of the BLS reports is that health care has reliably added thousands of jobs to the economy each month.

November was no different. The health care industry created 32,000 jobs, adding to the 328,000 health care positions created since early 2017.

But what kinds of jobs? Were they highly paid doctors and hospital executives or were they positions on the other end of the pay scale, such as nursing home aides and the people who enter data for billing in hospitals and clinics?

It’s hard to know for sure, because the BLS monthly data measure industries not occupations and what information it does have on occupations is overly broad. For instance, it says hospitals accounted for about 13,000 jobs in November. Another 19,000 jobs were for “ambulatory” care, which is a broad term for services delivered outside of hospital systems, like in clinics and private doctors’ offices.

But another set of BLS data offers additional insights. Every two years, BLS puts out a wonky set of numbers called “industryoccupation matrices,” which more finely slices job categories and predicts which will grow or shrink over the next 10 years.

The most recent, from 2016, still provides a pretty accurate snapshot, according to Joanne Spetz, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco’s Institute for Health Policy Studies.

Registered nurses are the fastest-growing occupation. They account for more than 25 percent of jobs in hospitals. If that share remained the same last month, 3,289 of the new hospital jobs added in November went to RNs.

It’s likely that many of the hospital jobs went to medical assistants, who currently make up only 1.5 percent of the industry. Medical assistants are usually the people taking your vitals and helping the doctor take notes. The BLS expects about a 16 percent increase in these jobs in the next decade.

“There will be a fair amount of growth in physician and surgeon employment in the next decade, but so many more medical assistants than physicians,” Spetz said.

The national median pay of a registered nurse is $70,000 a year, according to more BLS data. For medical assistants, it is $32,480. Doctors’ median pay is more than $200,000.

Far more of those medical assistants found work outside the hospital in the ambulatory sector: almost 1,300.

“There will be a fair amount of growth in physician and surgeon employment in the next decade, but so many more medical assistants than physicians.”

— Joanne Spetz,

professor at the University of California-San Francisco’s Institute for Health Policy Studies