WASHINGTON, DC—The health care sector added 13,500 new health jobs in March, which is less than half the 12-month average of 30,000 jobs per month—making the first quarter of 2017 the slowest for health job growth since the second quarter of 2014. Even though growth through February was revised to reflect an additional 8,000 jobs, this low March reading kept first quarter 2017 job growth at an average of 20,000 new jobs per month, significantly lower than 2015 and 2016’s average of 32,000 per month.
“This slowdown in monthly health job growth is likely due to a combination of smaller recent gains in coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the risk that these gains could be reversed under ACA repeal,” said Dr. Charles Roehrig, founding director of Altarum’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending. “State level data from our recent blog published in The Incidental Economist) demonstrates that expanded coverage does, indeed, create extra health care jobs to meet increased demand for care by the newly insured. As expansion levels off, so does the need for extra hiring.”
February’s national health spending growth rate of 5.2% was a decline from the 5.6% rate observed in each month from November 2016 through January 2017. As a percent of GDP, health spending in January reached an all-time high of 18.4%. This was due in part to a one-month decline in GDP in January; February’s spending dropped back to 18.3% of GDP.
Health price growth unexpectedly fell back to below 2% in February, following 3 months at a rate of 2.1%. Annual drug price growth fell to a 5.2% rate, down from its 20+ year high of 7.0% reached in November 2016. Dental care price growth plummeted to 1.3% in February, the lowest reading in nearly three decades of data collection.
The complete results are included in Altarum’s Health Sector Economic IndicatorsSM briefs (http://www.altarum.org/healthindicators).