March 2023 Health Sector Economic Indicators Briefs

March 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 March 2023 briefs.

Personal health care spending accelerated in January 2023

  • In January 2023, national health spending grew by 4.6%, year over year. Spending on personal health care increased by 6.3%, but that growth was dampened by a decline in federal government support to public health activities.
  • Spending on dental services (10.6%), home health care (9.4%) and nursing home care (9.2%) were the fastest growing categories in January, while physician and clinical services spending increased the least (3.5%).
  • Health spending in January 2023 accounted for 17.2% of nominal GDP.
  • Nominal GDP in January 2023 was 7.4% higher than in January 2022, as GDP growth continues to outpace health spending growth.

 Overall health care price growth remains moderate as private prices increase

  • The overall Health Care Price Index (HCPI) increased by 2.7% year over year in February, up from the slightly revised 2.6% growth rate a month prior in January.
  • Growth in the HCPI continues to remain remarkably steady, sitting between a tight 2.0% to 3.0% year-over-year growth rate range for 17 of the most recent 18 months.
  • Prices for health care services paid for by private insurance increased by 4.1% in February (up from 3.5% in January), while Medicare prices actually fell slightly last month, down -0.2% year over year.
  • Economywide inflation slowed again in February, as overall CPI growth fell from 6.4% to 6.0% and PPI price growth fell to 4.6%. Economywide services (less healthcare) inflation rose again, up 8.3% year over year. 
  • Among the major health care categories, prices for dental care (6.6%) and nursing home care (5.6%) grew fastest, while physician services (0.6%) and home health care (1.9%) price growth were the slowest.
  • Our implicit measure of health care utilization returned to positive growth in January, up 3.7% year over year. Home health care utilization (7.5%) and prescription drug utilization (5.3%) increased most last month.

Steady health care job growth seen throughout 2022 continues into 2023

  • Health care added 44,200 jobs in February 2023, consistent with the 12-month average of 49,100.
  • February health care job growth was led by hospitals, which added 19,400 jobs. Nursing and residential care facilities added 13,700 jobs and ambulatory settings added 11,100 jobs.
  • Three years later, health care employment is just above where it was in February 2020 before the pandemic (207,000 jobs or 1.3% above); however, the story varies by setting. Hospital employment is close to the level of three years ago (42,000 jobs or 0.8% above), ambulatory care employment is well above (nearly 440,000 jobs or 5.6% above) and nursing and residential care employment remains more than 270,000 jobs below the level of three years ago.
  • The economy also showed another month of solid job growth, adding 311,000 jobs in February, similar to the 12-month average of 362,000 jobs. The unemployment rate bumped up slightly to 3.6% amid a gradual rise in labor force participation.
  • Wage growth in health care has been declining since mid-2022 and has now fallen slightly below economywide wage growth. In January 2023, health care wages grew by 4.2% year over year while total private sector wages grew by 4.4%.


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