While no industry is completely recession-proof, the health care industry has proven its strength, even in the midst of economic uncertainty. As of June, health care employment has grown 121 consecutive months, dating back to 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that even throughout the Great Recession, the health care industry not only held steady, but thrived. Few other areas of the U.S. economy come close to this type of growth.
There is no sign of this trend slowing any time soon. Just in the first half of 2014, the industry has already created about 98,000 jobs*, and according to a new survey from CareerBuilder and MiracleWorkers.com, employment gains will continue to increase across occupations and facility types, at least through the back half of the year. Fifty-four percent of health care employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the second half of 2014. This is up from 51 percent in 2013 and is 7 percent higher than the national average across all industries.
Another potential indication that health care organizations are investing in their staff and offering more stability to workers than in recent years is the decrease in part-time hiring while full-time hiring increases. While still slightly above the national average, 30 percent of health care employers plan to hire part-time employees in the second half of the year, down from 34 percent in 2013.
Looking at Q3 specifically, 28 percent of health care employers plan to increase full-time headcount, up slightly from 27 percent in 2013. Thirteen percent expect headcount to decrease, up from 12 percent last year.
Areas experiencing growth
While health care across the board is in need of skilled workers, some sectors are growing at a faster pace than others. According to separate data from Economic Modeling Specialists, the following areas have experienced the most job growth from 2010 – 2013:
- Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities, 70 percent growth from 2010 – 2013
- Miscellaneous ambulatory health care services, 18 percent growth
- Freestanding ambulatory surgical and emergency centers, 17 percent growth
- Outpatient care centers, all other, 14 percent growth
- Offices of miscellaneous health practitioners, 14 percent growth
- Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists, 13 percent growth
- Home health care services, 12 percent growth
Hiring becoming more complex
Given the demand for health care workers, it seems counterintuitive that many hiring managers are facing recruitment challenges, yet the current environment has created some hurdles. While an aging population and technology advancements have strengthened the need for health-related services, health care organizations have had to find ways to contain costs, putting pressure on their staffing strategy as a result.
Also, the right talent is hard to find: 40 percent of health care employers surveyed have open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates. This has led to extended job vacancies, which remain a top challenge for many organizations and will ultimately lead to important discussions around education, training and best recruiting practices.
Temporary and contract hiring on the rise
Not only are health care organizations looking to hire more temporary and contract workers, they’re also keeping them around for longer stretches.Forty-twopercent of health care employers hired temporary or contract workers in the first half of the year, up from 36 percent in 2013. Thirty-one percent plan to hire temporary and contract workers in the second half of 2014 – up from 27 percent in 2013.
Twenty-six percent of health care employers say temp or contract assignments have become longer post-recession and 30 percent are relying more heavily on a temporary workforce post-recession. Hiring temp and contract workers gives health care organizations the flexibility to more easily adapt their headcount based on demand, while also reducing overhead costs.
The health care industry continues to be a bright spot for the economy, and while hiring managers may be facing some challenges recruiting workers, job seekers with the right mix of education, experience and skills will have ample opportunities to make a career in the health and medical field a reality.
*According to the BLS
Jason Lovelace is president of CareerBuilder Healthcare.