Hospitals added 2,900 jobs in May, after four months of job losses this year, according to the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The May count compares to 5,800 hospital jobs lost in April, 600 jobs lost in March, 2,200 jobs lost in February and 2,100 jobs lost in January. Before January, the last job loss was in September, when hospitals lost 6,400 jobs.
Overall, healthcare added 22,500 jobs last month — compared to 4,100 jobs lost in April and 11,500 jobs added in March — and employment in the industry is down by 508,000 compared with February 2020.
Within healthcare, ambulatory healthcare services saw 22,000 added jobs in May, and nursing and residential care facilities lost 2,400 jobs in May.
Overall, the U.S. gained 559,000 jobs in May after gaining 266,000 in April. The unemployment rate was 5.8 percent last month, compared to 6.1 percent in April.
To view the full jobs report, click here.
A new report out later today concludes that basic scientific research plays an essential role in creating companies that later produce thousands of jobs and billions in economic value.
Why it matters: The report uses the pandemic — and especially the rapid development of new mRNA vaccines — to show how basic research funding from the government lays the necessary groundwork for economically valuable companies down the road.
By the numbers: The Science Coalition — a nonprofit group that represents 50 of the nation’s top private and public research universities — identified 53 companies that have spun off from federally funded university research.
- Those companies — which range from pharmaceutical startups to agriculture firms — have contributed more than $1.3 billion to U.S. GDP between 2015 and 2019, while supporting the creation of more than 100,000 jobs.
What they’re saying: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the need for the federal government to continue investing in fundamental research is far from theoretical,” says John Latini, president of the Science Coalition. “Consistent, sustained, robust federal funding is how science evolves.”
Details: Latini praised the Biden administration’s first budget proposal to Congress, released last week, which includes what would be a $9 billion funding boost for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — the country’s single biggest science research funding agency.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would see its budget rise to a record high of $6.9 billion, including $800 million reserved for climate research.
The catch: The Biden budget proposal is just that, and it will ultimately be up to Congress to decide how much to allocate to research agencies.
Context: Government research funding is vital because private money tends to go to applied research. But without basic research — the lifeblood of science — the U.S. risks missing out on potentially world-changing innovations in the future.
- The long-term value of that funding can be seen in the story of Katalin Kariko, an obscure biomedical researcher who labored for years on mRNA with little reward — until the pandemic, when her work helped provide the foundation for mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.
The bottom line: Because its ultimate payoff might lay years in the future, it’s easy to see basic research funding as a waste — until the day comes when we need it.
The financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced hundreds of hospitals across the nation to furlough, lay off or reduce pay for workers, and others have had to scale back services or close.
Lower patient volumes, canceled elective procedures and higher expenses tied to the pandemic have created a cash crunch for hospitals. U.S. hospitals are estimated to lose more than $323 billion this year, according to a report from the American Hospital Association. The total includes $120.5 billion in financial losses the AHA predicts hospitals will see from July to December.
Hospitals are taking a number of steps to offset financial damage. Executives, clinicians and other staff are taking pay cuts, capital projects are being put on hold, and some employees are losing their jobs. More than 260 hospitals and health systems furloughed workers this year and dozens of others have implemented layoffs.
Below are 11 hospitals and health systems that announced layoffs since Sept. 1, most of which were attributed to financial strain caused by the pandemic.
1. NorthBay Healthcare, a nonprofit health system based in Fairfield, Calif., is laying off 31 of its 2,863 employees as part of its pandemic recovery plan, the system announced Nov. 2.
2. Minneapolis-based Children’s Minnesota is laying off 150 employees, or about 3 percent of its workforce. Children’s Minnesota cited several reasons for the layoffs, including the financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. Affected employees will end their employment either Dec. 31 or March 31.
3. Brattleboro Retreat, a psychiatric and addiction treatment hospital in Vermont, notified 85 employees in late October that they would be laid off within 60 days.
4. Citing a need to offset financial losses, Minneapolis-based M Health Fairview said it plans to downsize its hospital and clinic operations. As a result of the changes, 900 employees, about 3 percent of its 34,000-person workforce, will be laid off.
5. Lake Charles (La.) Memorial Health System laid off 205 workers, or about 8 percent of its workforce, as a result of damage sustained from Hurricane Laura. The health system laid off employees at Moss Memorial Health Clinic and the Archer Institute, two facilities in Lake Charles that sustained damage from the hurricane.
6. Burlington, Mass.-based Wellforce laid off 232 employees as a result of operating losses linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health system, comprising Tufts Medical Center, Lowell General Hospital and MelroseWakefield Healthcare, experienced a drastic drop in patient volume earlier this year due to the suspension of outpatient visits and elective surgeries. In the nine months ended June 30, the health system reported a $32.2 million operating loss.
7. Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany, Ind., part of Louisville, Ky.-based Baptist Health, eliminated 36 positions. The hospital said the cuts, which primarily affected administrative and nonclinical roles, are due to restructuring that is “necessary to meet financial challenges compounded by COVID-19.”
8. Cincinnati-based UC Health laid off about 100 employees. The job cuts affected both clinical and non-clinical staff. A spokesperson for the health system said no physicians were laid off.
9. Mercy Iowa City (Iowa) announced in September that it will lay off 29 employees to address financial strain tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
10. Springfield, Ill.-based Memorial Health System laid off 143 employees, or about 1.5 percent of the five-hospital system’s workforce. The health system cited financial pressures tied to the pandemic as the reason for the layoffs.
11. Watertown, N.Y.-based Samaritan Health announced Sept. 8 that it laid off 51 employees and will make other cost-cutting moves to offset financial stress tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tens of millions of people have been on unemployment at some point in the last seven months, since the pandemic began. Now, thousands are being told they have to pay some or all of that money back, either because they made an error when they applied for benefits, or the state did.
“People are terrified by these messages, and they’re coming in swarms,” said Anne Paxton of the Unemployment Law Project. “We’re hearing about this all the time.”
Many people receiving overpayment notices have already used their benefits to pay for basic living expenses.
“I don’t have $10,000 sitting around,” said Larson Ross, 25, who got a notice of overpayment from the state of Colorado in late August. “I was a low-wage tea house worker who was unemployed for four months. I was using the money from unemployment for food and rent. So it’s spent.”
He has no idea what he’s going to do. He’s never been so stressed in his life.
“The few days after I first received the letter I found it really hard to get out of bed at all,” Ross said. “It’s really tough.”
There are a variety of reasons people might get an overpayment of benefits notice. In Ross’ case, his employer successfully contested his eligibility for unemployment, saying he quit, which he disputes. In some cases, it’s because an applicant misunderstood or mischaracterized something on their application. In other cases, the state may have miscalculated a benefit, or approved an application before verifying all the information.
While this also happened in pre-pandemic times, the issue is particularly acute now given the historic number of claims that have flooded state unemployment offices since March — and the state of the economy.
“The circumstances for returning to work are just not the same,” said Kathy White, deputy director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute. “Congress needs to recognize that, and make sure that the systems that they’re putting in place for workers to help them through this time, that are just immediate relief … they cannot be punitive. Coming out of COVID with a $15,000 debt that you cannot repay is not helpful.”
With traditional unemployment insurance benefits and with Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, if someone has been overpaid, states have the discretion to waive repayment, as long as there was no fraud involved — particularly if repayment would cause financial hardship. But that is not the case with Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Under current federal law, states do not have the authority to waive repayment of PUA benefits if a person was overpaid, according to Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project.
“This is honestly the biggest reason that Congress needs to do something on COVID relief,” she said. “If this issue doesn’t get solved, this is going to be more explosive than people losing the $600 in some ways, because they’ll have to pay back six months of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Nobody who qualified for PUA is going to have that much money sitting around.”
Andrew Tolch applied for PUA in the spring, on the advice of both his bank and his accountant, when he had to temporarily close down his toy store in St. Louis, Missouri because of COVID.
He was approved, and used all the money he got — less than $200 a week in PUA, plus the extra $600 a week in FPUC — to pay utilities and rent for the store.
Then, over the summer, he got an overpayment notice from the state of Missouri: he owed a big chunk of that money back — $2,376 in total.
“I was shocked, and I didn’t understand it,” he said. “I followed the rules correctly. We should have qualified, and according to the rules they gave us, we qualified.”
Tolch has since connected with a number of other small business owners in Missouri who also got notices of overpayment, and he said none of them understands why the state is now saying they didn’t qualify for pandemic assistance. They’re considering the possibility of a class action lawsuit.
“It will sink a lot of people if they would have to give it all back,” Tolch said. “Just one more blow from 2020 to small businesses.”
People who think they got an overpayment notice in error, or who can’t afford to repay the benefits, can always appeal — and should, according to Eric Salinger, director of the Employment Law Project at Alaska Legal Services.
But for people who do not win on appeal, or do not get a repayment waiver, states can find ways to recoup that money. Some are more aggressive than others, according to Evermore.
“Every state has different recoupment authority,” she said. “In some states, other benefits can be garnished to pay for that. Taxes could be garnished, future wages could be garnished.”
Larson Ross is afraid that will happen to him. He finally found a seasonal job in northern Colorado, and is making enough money to get by this month, at least — as long as the state doesn’t garnish his wages. Then, he doesn’t know.
Kathy White is hoping that Colorado and other states will use their discretion to waive repayment in cases where there was no fraud, and that Congress will change the law so states can waive overpayment recoupment of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
“It should be just forgiveness for error or overpayment in these unusual circumstances,” she said. “You don’t want to put people in a worse position because of the aid you’re trying to give them.”
U.S. states saw another 840,000 jobless claims filed last week, as the number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment insurance benefits each week continues to hover at a historically high level.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released its weekly jobless claims report at 8:30 a.m. ET Thursday. Here were the main metrics from the report, compared to Bloomberg estimates:
- Initial jobless claims, week ended Oct. 3: 840,000 vs. 820,000 expected and 849,000 during the prior week
- Continuing claims, week ended Sept. 26: 10.976 million vs. 11.4 million expected and 11.979 million during the prior week
New weekly unemployment insurance claims have held below the psychologically important 1 million mark for the past six consecutive weeks, but have so far failed to break below 800,000 since the start of the pandemic. At 840,000 last week’s new claims remained at a level still handily above the pre-pandemic record high of 695,000 from 1982.
The past two weeks’ jobless claims totals have also been flattered by an absence of updated new claims out of California. The state – which has consistently been one of the biggest contributors to new weekly claims – announced last week it was taking a two-week pause in processing initial claims to “reduce its claims processing backlog and implement fraud prevention technology,” according to the Labor Department’s statement.
Across all programs, the total number of jobless claims decreased for the week ending Sept. 19. Total claims came in at 25.5 million, down from the about 26.5 million during the previous week, as a smaller number of self-employed or gig workers not eligible for regular state programs claimed Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. But the number of workers collecting benefits through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program – which offers an extra 13 weeks’ worth of federal benefits to those who had exhausted previous state or federal compensation – rose by 154,000 to 1.96 million.
Continuing jobless claims, which are reported on a one-week lag and represent the total number of individuals still receiving state unemployment benefits, continued their gradual downtrend last week. But as with new jobless claims, continuing claims have held well above pre-pandemic levels, and have not broken below the 10 million mark in more than 6 months.
“Net, initial filings fell less than expected last week. The improvement in continuing claims is reflecting people being hired but also individuals exhausting their benefits,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief economist for High Frequency Economics, said in an email. “Overall, the signal from the claims data is still one of ongoing weak conditions in the labor market. Even as filings are declining, levels remain extraordinarily high. Employment growth has already slowed and without fiscal support that protected jobs, risks are skewed to the downside for payrolls going forward.”
The latest jobless claims report comes amid dimming hopes for another round of virus relief measures out of Congress, despite increasingly urgent calls from Federal Reserve officials for more fiscal stimulus to support individual Americans more directly.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he had asked his negotiators to halt further stimulus talks until after the election, but added that he would support standalone measures providing tens of billions of dollars for airline payroll support and the Paycheck Protection Program. House Democrats, however, have previously balked at the notion of passing slimmed down versions of a stimulus package – meaning the prospect of further fiscal stimulus in the next month remains unlikely.
The June unemployment rate of 11.1 percent, down from a peak of 14.7 percent in April, reflects a continuing, cautious economic recovery. What those numbers don’t show is an increase in employment driven disproportionately by part-time work and industries that are vulnerable to another shutdown.
According to the Labor Department’s survey of American households, many of those workers would work full-time if they could and are working part-time only because of poor economic conditions. The number of people pushed into part-time work has more than doubled since February. Meanwhile, the number of people who work part-time by choice is still down by 23 percent.
The unemployment rate isn’t wrong: Part-time work is still work. However, those jobs have already proved to be vulnerable to a slowing economy. Anyone pushed into part-time work by the coronavirus’s initial shock to the economy may be even more vulnerable in the case of future shutdowns. And part-time workers may not have access to benefits such as health insurance that are available to full-time workers.
The industries that bounced back in May and June are also at the mercy of future shutdowns as coronavirus cases surge across the Sun Belt. For instance, unemployment in leisure and hospitality is still very high but dropped by 10 percentage points from April’s staggering 40 percent. Retail and wholesale unemployment dropped by a third. In contrast, finance, government and professional services have had a slow start to recovery. Unemployment in the information industry actually increased from May to June.
If the greatest gains in employment are in industries that suffered most in the early stages of the pandemic, those gains are vulnerable to future waves of shutdowns. Meanwhile, less-volatile industries may continue to be slow to bounce back. A Congressional Budget Office report predicted that the unemployment rate is expected to stay above its pre-pandemic levels through the end of 2030.