Providence is investing $220 million to fill open positions and give bonuses to current employees, the Renton, Wash.-based system announced Sept. 3.
The health system is giving a $1,000 bonus to every caregiver who has been with the organization for at least 90 days. The bonuses, which will be given to workers up to and including the director level, will be paid in two installments in September and December.
Providence is also making investments to rapidly fill 17,000 job openings. The system said it is offering sign-on bonuses to front-line workers with the goal of filling positions quickly and alleviating the stress and burnout many clinicians are experiencing. Current employees are eligible for referral bonuses of between $1,000 and $7,500.
“Our caregivers are the core of who we are, and we have been committed to supporting their health and well-being throughout the pandemic,” Providence President and CEO Rod Hochman, MD, said in a news release. “Now, as we enter month 21 of our COVID-19 response, it’s even more imperative to continue to care for and bolster those who make our mission possible.”
Economy adds just 235K jobs in August as delta hammers growth
The U.S. added 235,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent as the economy appeared to falter under surging coronavirus cases, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.
Economists had expected employment growth to slow slightly in August to a gain of roughly 750,000 jobs, according to consensus forecasts, amid falling consumer confidence and disruptive school closures.
Declines in restaurant reservations, air travel and other key drivers of the recovery also raised red flags about the August jobs haul.
“Today’s report has the delta variant written all over it. It is clear that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is a strong headwind to the labor market,” wrote Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed. I break it down here.
Delta homes in on pandemic-sensitive industries: The August jobs report showed setbacks in sectors of the economy hit hardest by the pandemic and crucial to the comeback from its economic blow.
The leisure and hospitality sector did not add any net jobs in August as a 42,000-job decline in restaurants and bars wiped out a 36,000-job gain in arts and entertainment.
Employment in retail, another hard-hit sector, also fell by 29,000 thanks to steep losses at grocery stores and building material and garden supply stores.
“The industry breakdown in employment growth shows clear signs that the increased COVID-19 spread is behind this relatively weak number,” Bunker wrote. “Yet, the labor market is still recovering.”
Signs of resilience:While job growth slowed significantly in August, the first full month since the delta surge picked up in mid-July, the labor market still showed signs of holding strong.
Labor force participation stayed even at 61.7 percent in August and the employment to population ratio — a broader gauge of job market strength — ticked up 0.1 percentage points to 58.5 percent.
The number of Americans who have been jobless for 27 weeks or longer, known as the “long-term unemployed,” also dropped from 3.4 million to roughly 3.2 million. Those who suffer long-term unemployment often struggle to return to work and are hired at lower rates than those without long periods of joblessness.
Stronger days…behind? Upward revisions to June and July’s blockbuster jobs gains were another positive sign for the economy. June’s job haul was revised up from 938,000 to 962,000, and July’s was revised up from 943,000 to 1,053,000 — the first seven-digit job gain since August 2020.
“The underlying momentum is still there. We just have to see if we can keep up the pace until this surge is behind us,” Bunker said.
Unemployment claims jumped last week, as the delta variant of the coronavirus sparked rising caseloads around the country and renewed fears about the potential for more restrictions and business closures.
The number of new claims grew to 419,000 from 368,000, the third time in six weeks that they had ticked up, according to data from the Department of Labor.
Economists said the uptick was concerning but cautioned that it was too early to tell whether it was a one week aberration or telegraphed a more concerning turn for the labor market.
“The unexpected bump in claims could be noise in the system, but it’s also not hard to see how the rise of the covid-19 delta variant could add thousands of layoffs to numbers that already are double what they were pre-Covid,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.
Overall, unemployment numbers have been falling gradually from the peaks at other stages of the pandemic, but they are still well above pre-pandemic averages.
The jobless numbers have provided a jarring catalogue about the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic — spiking to records as the pandemic unfolded in March 2020, and remaining at historic high levels throughout most of 2020.
The coronavirus surge last fall helped precipitate a rise in claims that saw the labor market, as seen in the monthly jobs report, slide backward too.
But until recently, the last few months been marked by strong jobs growth and a sense of optimism as vaccinations picked up, giving economists hope that the country was back on track to recovering the nearly 7 million jobs it is still down from before the pandemic.
Now, the delta variant is driving an alarming increase in covid-19 cases around the country, according to public health officials: the number of new cases increased more than 40 percent in the last week, sending jitters through the stock market, and is raising questions about whether state and local health authorities will reinstitute restrictions to slow the virus’ spread.
Frick said that the report showed the potential for unemployment claims to start trending upward after months of steady declines.
“There’s definitely a correlation, however loose, that the rise in covid does cause a rise in claims,” he said. “My fear is that the rise in the delta variant could cause claims to go back up…Certainly one week doesn’t show that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see claims rise.”
However, there are also lots of signs that the economy continues to rebound despite rising caseloads.
The more than 2.2 million people that the Transportation Security Administration said it screened at airports on Sunday was the most since late February 2020 — and nearly three times the amount it was on the same day last year.
Restaurant dining has largely rebounded in recent months, at times surpassing the levels from before the pandemic — on Saturday the number of diners was 1 percent higher than the same day in 2019, according to data from Open Table.
Last week, some 12.5 million claims were filed for unemployment insurance overall, according to the most recent numbers — down from 32.9 million filed at the same point last year.
Nevada, Rhode Island and California topped the list of states with the highest number of people on unemployment, the Labor Department said.
Economic concerns in recent months have been more focused on the ways that workers are still held back from filling some of the more than 9 million job openings in the country, than unemployment, with high hopes that school re-openings in the fall will help many parents get back into the labor force.
Health Partners, one of the largest home healthcare providers in Michigan, laid off 560 employees at the beginning of July, including nurses, nursing assistants, therapists and direct care workers, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.
The layoffs occurred July 1 and happened as the Bingham Farms-based company is winding down business. The job losses are attributed to a 2019 state law capping Health Partners’ payment rates at 55 percent of what it bills insurance companies to care for injured motorists, said Chad Livengood, a senior editor at Crain’s Detroit Business.
Health Partners owner John G. Prosser II, who has been in the home health business for decades, said the company couldn’t absorb the losses from the new fee schedule, which cuts payments by 45 percent, according to Crain’s.
Other home healthcare companies in Michigan haven’t met the same fate as Health Partners because they rely more heavily on Medicaid, workers’ compensation insurance or private payers, according to the report.
That’s the question business leaders are facing after Colorado lawmakers passed a bill requiring companies to post salary ranges for open or remote work positions in the state. California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Washington already have laws on the books mandating companies provide pay ranges to candidates who specifically ask for them or during an offer. The Colorado law takes it one step further by making companies proactively disclose the minimum and maximum salary as part of the job posting.
Though Colorado is the first state to make salary ranges available to any applicant, it won’t be the last, says Benjamin Frost, a solutions architect in Korn Ferry’s Products business. “The wind is clearly blowing in the direction of this becoming commonplace,” he says. Investors and employees want more transparency from companies, particularly around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Moreover, supporters argue providing salary ranges up front can help companies better match candidates to positions, making the hiring process more efficient.
But some companies, already under increasing wage pressure brought on by the hiring boom, apparently don’t see it that way: some recent job listings have specifically excluded candidates who live in Colorado from certain open positions. Frost says the move is less about Colorado’s talent pool and more about losing negotiating power with talent overall. “Excluding Colorado workers seems like a decent price to pay for not needing to disclose salary ranges at the moment,” he says. By contrast, he says, if and when a state like New York or California takes the step toward proactive disclosure, it will be a much bigger deal: “It is about talent pools and where companies can and can’t afford to close off access.”
Human resources leaders also argue that proactively providing pay ranges will actually make the recruiting process less, rather than more, efficient. For one, designating a salary range is tricky business. “You don’t want to limit the talent you get to look at,” says Andy De Marco, Korn Ferry’s vice president of human resources for the Americas. At the time, the range can be so broad that it could become arbitrary. A span of $100,000, for instance, expands the candidate pool and skills spectrum so much that it could slow down recruiting and, by extension, operations.
Excluding applicants from Colorado for now might give companies more time to clean up their pay practices, says Tom McMullen, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and a leader in the firm’s Total Rewards practice. He notes that posting pay ranges could expose internal inequities leaders aren’t yet prepared to deal with. For instance, suppose a company posts a range of $80,000 to $100,000 for a role, but an existing employee is still earning the minimum number after five years with the firm. “How upset will that employee be after seeing this posted range?” asks McMullen.
To be sure, optics are a huge part of the disclosure calculus for leaders. McMullen says companies are running out of time to institute fairer pay practices on their own before regulators push them to do so. “Employees will give their leaders credit for making these changes proactively,” he says.
Many U.S. hospitals are turning to layoffs to cut costs as they recover from the financial hit of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are seven hospitals or health systems that recently announced layoffs or job cuts:
1. Mishawaka, Ind.-based Franciscan Health will lay off 83 employees of its 100-year-old hospital in Hammond, Ind., according to a notice filed with the state. The layoff notice comes as the health system works to shrink the 226-bed Franciscan Health Hammond Hospital to an eight-bed acute care facility with an emergency department and primary care practice. The layoffs are slated to begin Aug. 21 and will be permanent, the health system said.
2. HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, a three-hospital system in the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, laid off an undisclosed number of workers June 14. Westchester Medical Center Health Network in Valhalla, N.Y., said it laid off HealthAlliance hospital employees in Kingston, N.Y., to eliminate redundancies as it begins to consolidate inpatient services to one location.
3. As part of a financial restructuring plan, Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Healthwill issue another round of layoffs this year. The health system said in early June it plans to lay off 400 employees. These newly announced layoffs are in addition to 277 information technology jobs that were cut April 2. Sutter said most of the new layoffs affect employees in administrative positions in benefits, human resources, data services and accounting. The layoff notice said many of these employees were working remotely or in the field.
4. A little over a month after filing a notice to complete about 651 layoffs this year, Ascension Technologies, the IT subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ascension,eliminated 92 remote IT jobs in Indiana, according to a June 3 report. Most of the laid-off employees are based in Indianapolis and Evansville, Ind., the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said June 2
5. Lawrence (Mass.) General Hospital plans to lay off 56 employees and is warning of more cuts unless it receives government aid quickly, according to a May 25 report. The layoffs will affect employees working in administration and patient care. The layoffs affect about 2.5 percent of the 186-bed hospital’s workforce. Lawrence General attributed the layoffs to the COVID-19 pandemic weakening its financial profile.
6. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America closed its hospital in Tulsa, Okla. About 400 employees will be affected by the closure. The hospital saw its last patient on May 27.
7. Boca Raton, Fla.-based Cancer Treatment Centers of America is selling its hospital in Philadelphia and will lay off the facility’s 365 employees, according to a closure notice filed with the state. The cancer care network said it anticipates the layoffs in Philadelphia will begin after May 30.
Altarum’s monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators (HSEI) briefs analyze the most recent data available on health sector spending, prices, employment, and utilization. Support for this work is provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Below are highlights from the June 2021 briefs
National health spending growth reflects rebound from COVID-19
National health spending in April 2021 was 32.4% higher than in April 2020, reflecting the recovery from the lowest month in spending since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since January 2020, before the pandemic-induced drop began, net growth in national health spending was 1.5% through April 2021.
The magnitude of the drop and subsequent recovery has varied by category of spending, with only spending on home health care, prescription drugs, and hospital care reaching levels in April 2021 that exceeded their January 2020 levels.
The recovery in spending on dental services continues to lag all other categories, remaining 14.6% below its January 2020 level.
Health care price growth remains stable amid economywide inflation
Growth in the overall Health Care Price Index (HCPI) remained mostly steady in May, with prices 2.0% higher than they were a year ago, compared to the 1.9% growth seen in April. The 2.0% rate is below the average since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating a slight moderation in health care prices.
Hospital and physician services prices continue to be the two fastest growing major categories, increasing 3.6% and 3.1% year over year respectively, while nursing home facility and home health care price growth has slowed significantly over the past few months, now up only 2.1% and 1.5% respectively in May.
Outside of health care, economywide price growth, as measured by both the consumer price index (CPI) and producer price index (PPI), continued to accelerate, with those measures increasing to 5.0% and 6.6% growth in May. This is the fastest growth for economywide CPI since 2008 and the fastest ever in the series for PPI.
As expected, the GDP Deflator (GDPD), which lags a month behind other price data, was significantly higher in April at 3.7%, marking the first time it exceeded health care price growth since September 2019.
Health employment up modestly in May, returning to the December 2020 level
Health care added a modest 22,500 jobs in May, mostly in ambulatory care settings. Revisions to March and April took health care jobs up slightly but did not significantly change the story.
Health care employment has slowly regained the 80,000 jobs dropped in January 2021 and is now at the level it was at the end of 2020 (15.98 million jobs). The sector remains about 500,000 jobs, or 3.1%, below where it was in February 2020, with a big part of the drop in residential care settings. Additionally, neither hospitals nor ambulatory settings (as a whole) are fully back to pre-pandemic employment.
After dropping 35,000 jobs in January 2021, hospital employment has been little changed, with job losses and gains of a few thousand jobs per month in February through May 2021. Hospital employment is 28,000 jobs below where it stood at the end of 2020 and 90,000 jobs, or 1.7%, below the pre-pandemic peak.
Nursing and residential care employment continued to fall in May, losing 2,400 jobs. Residential care settings are down 340,000 jobs, or 12.7%, since February 2020, losing jobs in all but one month over that period.
The economy added 559,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 5.8%. We have added 2.4 million jobs so far in 2021 but remain 7.6 million jobs (5%) below the level of employment in February 2020.