Health Care Job Growth Off to Slowest Start in Two Years; Health Care Prices Rise at Highest Rate in Three Years

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The health care sector added 27,000 jobs in February 2017 on the heels of a downwardly revised 12,000 jobs in January, resulting in a two-month average of less than 20,000 new jobs per month – well below the 2015 and 2016 pace of growth.

Health care jobs accounted for only 8% of total job growth during the first two months of 2017, less than half of the 17% share in 2016. As a result, the sector’s share of total jobs dropped to 10.72%, fractionally below the all-time high rate of 10.73% in December 2016.

“In December 2007, just prior to the recession, health jobs accounted for 9.5% of total employment,” said Dr. Charles Roehrig, founding director of Altarum’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending. “Since then, the health sector has added 2.5 million jobs and grown to 10.7% of total employment. As we enter 2017, conditions seem ripe for a more cautious stance in health sector hiring as the leveling off in expanded coverage is accompanied by the possibility of contracted coverage under the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Thus far, this expected slowdown is supported in the jobs data.”

For more analysis on health sector job growth during the past decade, see Altarum’s Health Affairs Blog post: “What’s Behind 2.5 Million New Health Jobs?”, which is released today.

Health care prices in January 2017 grew 2.1% above the January 2016 level, the fifth consecutive month at this rate. The 12-month moving average, at 1.8% growth, is the highest since May 2013.

Overall, at an annualized rate of $3.47 trillion, national health spending in January 2017 was 5.7% higher than in January 2016. With revised source data, we estimate that national health spending grew 5.2% in 2016, which is above the 4.8% rate projected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The complete results are included in Altarum’s Health Sector Economic IndicatorsSM briefs (


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