February 2023 Health Sector Economic Indicators Briefs

February 22, 2023

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 February 2023 briefs.

National health spending grew by 3.8% in 2022

  • With data now available through December 2022, we estimate that national health spending increased by 3.8% in 2022, as a decline in pandemic-related federal subsidies partially offset an increase in health care utilization.
  • In December 2022, national health spending grew by just 0.6%, year over year, further reflecting the decline in federal government subsidies.
  • Nominal GDP in December 2022 was 6.3% higher than in December 2021 as GDP growth continues to outpace health spending growth.

 Health care price and utilization growth slows to kick off 2023

  • The overall Health Care Price Index increased by 2.7% year over year in January, down from the updated 2.9% reported growth rate a month prior in December.
  • Revised data for 2022 show that overall health care price growth averaged 2.6% over the entire year, up somewhat from the 2.3% average growth that was seen in 2021.
  • Economywide inflation slowed slightly in January, as overall CPI growth fell from 6.5% to 6.4% and PPI price growth fell from 6.5% to 6.0%. Alternatively, economywide services (less healthcare) inflation continues to increase, up to 8.2% year-over-year growth last month. 
  • Among the major health care categories, prices for dental care (6.6%), nursing home care (4.8%), and hospital services (2.7%) were the fastest growing, while physician services (0.5%) and home health care (1.8%) price growth were the slowest.
  • Our implicit measure of health care year-over-year utilization growth fell again in December (-1.5%), pulled downward by dental care services (-4.9%); hospital care (-2.4%); and physician and clinical services (-2.4%).

Health care adds 58,000 jobs amid strong economywide job growth

  • Health care added 58,200 jobs in January 2023, consistent with the pattern of the past eight months, as the economy added more than half a million jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 3.4%, the lowest rate in more than 50 years.
  • The annual benchmarking of the Current Employment Statistics survey, the source of the jobs data in this brief, shifted total nonfarm employment up by 0.3%. Combined with the usual revisions to the previous two months of data, December 2022 employment was revised upward by 813,000 jobs. Benchmark revisions had a modest impact on health employment, which was adjusted down by 91,500 jobs in December. The downward revision to health employment was seen in hospitals (-36,000) and ambulatory settings (-60,000), but not residential care (+4,500).
  • Consistent with 2022 trends, about half of the health job growth in January 2023 was in ambulatory care settings, which added 29,900 jobs, while hospitals added 10,900 jobs and nursing and residential care added 17,400 jobs.
  • Wage growth in health care continues to moderate. After peaking at a rate of 7.5% year over year in July 2022, health care wage growth fell to 4.9% in December 2022, very close to the economy-wide wage growth of 4.8%.


Corey Rhyan
Research Director, Health Economics and Policy
George Miller
Fellow and Research Team Leader