Ambulatory Care Employment Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Rates

A report shows that overall healthcare employment remains below pre-pandemic rates. However, ambulatory care employment rates have fully recovered.

January 26, 2022 – In 2021, healthcare employment experienced no significant growth. However, ambulatory care employment saw an increase in jobs exceeding pre-pandemic rates, an analysis from Altarum revealed.

Healthcare employment gained 63,000 jobs, a modest 0.4 percent rise, compared to employment rates in December 2020. Meanwhile, employment in the ambulatory care sector, such as provider offices, clinics, labs, and home health agencies, increased by 3.1 percent in 2021. 

The report showed that employment decreased for the nursing and residential care sectors by 4.7 percent. Additionally, the hospital sector experienced a 0.6 percent drop in jobs. 

Ambulatory care jobs rose by 242,000 jobs last year, while hospitals experienced a loss of 33,000 jobs and nursing and residential care jobs fell by 46,000. 

Over three-fourths of jobs within the ambulatory care sector were in physicians’ offices, dentist offices, and offices of other healthcare practitioners. Within ambulatory care, physician offices experienced a 2.6 percent growth in jobs over the year. Meanwhile, dentist offices experienced a job growth of 5.1 percent over the year. 

Medical and diagnostic labs had a 4.7 percent growth rate, gaining 14,000 jobs in 2021. However, this increase only accounted for 6.0 percent of the growth within the ambulatory care sector.

Outpatient care centers, including multi-specialty clinics, urgent care centers, and ambulatory surgery centers, experienced slower growth as they added fewer jobs. Home health experienced similar results.

By ambulatory care setting, offices of other healthcare practitioners experienced a 7.3 percent year-over-year growth rate. Within this setting, 56 percent of the jobs added were in offices of physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. 

Jobs in ambulatory care settings have recovered slightly above the pre-pandemic peak. However, researchers estimate employment could have been higher by 406,000 jobs if pre-pandemic trends had continued.

Before the pandemic, hospital employment had consistent growth. If the pre-pandemic hospital employment trend continued, hospitals would have had 212,000 more jobs by 2021.

Nursing and residential care employment was stagnant pre-pandemic as the field experienced a drop in nursing home jobs offset by slow growth in residential care jobs. 

Researchers predict that employment in nursing and residential care facilities would have been 15.5 percent higher with 457,000 more jobs had the pre-pandemic trends been maintained.

Physician offices employment rates are below projected trends by 4.8 percent. In comparison, outpatient care centers are below 8.8 percent and home health employment is below by 7.4 percent.

This trend remains consistent with offices of other healthcare practitioners, which had the quickest rate of job growth between all ambulatory care settings in 2021.

The employment rates among offices of other healthcare practitioners are nearly 7.0 percent below their pre-pandemic predicted rates despite high year-over-year growth. 

Employment in dental offices was the only setting to recover, being one percent away from its pre-pandemic trend.

By Sarai Rodriguez

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