Healthcare added 34K jobs in March as temp nursing demand wanes


Dive Brief:

  • Healthcare job growth continued to climb in March with the industry adding 34,000 jobs last month, according to a report released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on April 7. 
  • The job growth is lower than the six-month average monthly job gain of 54,000 in healthcare. Home health services and hospitals recorded the most gains, adding 15,000 and 11,000 jobs, respectively. 
  • The BLS report comes as demand for temporary nurses declines with median rates of temp staff billing down, according to a report out last week from Jefferies.

Dive Insight:

Labor shortages have been a continuing obstacle for hospitals and health systems, after the coronavirus pandemic spurred industry job reductions and clinicians left the field due to burnout. Temporary nurse staffing agencies swooped in to ease labor shortages, with hospital systems paying higher rates to temp agencies to staff their floors. 

Hospitals ended last year with negative margins, driven by labor expenses that rose as much as 36% compared with pre-pandemic levels. The average weekly rate for travel nurses reached $3,900 in January 2022, according to staffing platform Vivian Health, prompting lawmakers and industry groups to ask the White House to investigate nurse staffing agencies.

But hospitals may be catching a break from labor and temporary staffing pressures. Data from private healthcare staffers, including Aya Healthcare and Fastaff, show that demand for temporary nurses declined by 2.2%, with median bill rates dropping 2.9% week over week, according to the Jefferies report.

The accelerated decline in demand and bill rates could be a sign of labor woes easing, especially for nurse-dependent hospital operators like HCA Healthcare, according to the report.

“As we see order and bill rate data for temp nurses decline, we are gaining optimism that nurse-dependent healthcare providers such as hospitals [HCA Healthcare, Community Health Systems, Tenent Healthcare] and post-acute players [Amedisys, Encompass Health, Enhabit] will begin to see labor headwinds ease, which should help these companies achieve or exceed earnings goals this year,” the report said.

While labor shortages have battered HCA Healthcare and CHS, both operators suggested in recent earnings reports that labor pains could be easing. HCA reported in January that it was decreasing its nursing turnover and CHS reported in October that it had made progress in reducing its contract labor expenses.

Hospitals continue gaining jobs

Reports have showed that labor shortages appear to be easing this year, with a December report from Fitch Ratings noting that staffing shortages at nonprofit hospitals appeared to be incrementally waning.

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