October 2023 Health Sector Economic Indicators Briefs

October 19, 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 October 2023 briefs.

Health spending data revisions reflect BEA’s 2023 Comprehensive Update 

  • In August 2023, national health spending grew by 5.4%, year over year, and represents 17.2% of GDP.
  • Nominal GDP in August 2023 was 5.6% higher than in August 2022, and grew 0.2 percentage points faster than health spending.
  • Neglecting government subsidies, spending on personal health care in August increased by 7.4%, year over year, and by 6.8% when subsidies are included, exceeding the GDP growth rate for the seventh consecutive month.
  • Neglecting government subsidies, year-over-year spending on prescription drugs (10.8%) grew fastest in August, while spending on home health care increased the least (5.0%) among major categories.
  • Personal health care spending growth (neglecting government subsidies) continues to be dominated by growth in utilization rather than price increases.
  • These results incorporate the effects of the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ 2023 Comprehensive Update to the National Economic Accounts, resulting in revisions to our health spending data for 2022 and 2023.

Health care price growth and economywide inflation remain stable  

  • Growth in the Health Care Price Index (HCPI) remained at 2.8% year over year in September, matching the overall growth rate in August. 
  • Economywide inflation also remained moderate in September, with Consumer Price Index (CPI) growth holding at 3.7% and the Produce Price Index (PPI) growth increasing slightly from 2.0% in August to 2.2%. 
  • Among the major health care categories, prices for home health care (6.1%), nursing home care (5.1%), and dental care (4.7%) grew the fastest, while physician and clinical services (0.6%) price growth was the slowest.
  • Price growth of overall health care services for Medicaid patients was 4.2% year over year in September, above private insurance price growth (2.9%), and Medicare patients’ price growth (1.5%).
  • Our implicit measure of health care utilization growth slowed again in August to 4.0% year-over-year, down from its peak rate in March (4.8% growth).

Health sector job growth slows down after a brief surge  

  • Health care employment growth decelerated in September with 40,900 jobs added, following strong growth in July and August 2023, with 76,800 and 67,000 jobs added. 
  • September’s health care job growth was led by growth in ambulatory care settings, which added 24,300 jobs, while hospitals added 8,400 jobs. 
  • Nursing and residential care facilities added 8,200 jobs in September, with modest growth in nursing homes (2,400 jobs) and more substantial growth in all other nursing and residential care settings (5,800 jobs).
  • The economy added 295,100 jobs in September, well above the 12-month average of 213,800. The unemployment rate stayed constant at 3.8%.
  • Health care wage growth in August 2023 was 3.4% year over year, somewhat below the total private sector wage growth of 4.3%. 
  • Wage growth in health care settings was highest in nursing and residential care, at 4.5% year over year in August 2023, followed by hospitals at 3.4% and ambulatory care settings at 3.2%. 


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