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 2022 briefs.
National health spending is declining as a share of GDP
- National health spending in April 2022 grew by 6.5%, year over year. In the absence of federal government support in 2021 and 2022, health spending would have grown by 5.5%.
- GDP in April 2022 was 9.7% higher than in April 2021 as GDP growth continues to outpace health spending growth. The difference in growth is largely attributable to the recent high rate of inflation, which has not yet had a major impact on health spending.
- In April 2022, health spending accounted for 18.1% of GDP but this share has been declining steadily over the past several months. It was 18.7% of GDP in December 2021.
Health care price growth stays tempered despite economywide inflation
- Growth in the overall Health Care Price Index (HCPI) remained the same in May (2.0% year over year) as the slightly revised April data, slowing somewhat from the 2.4% health care price growth seen a year earlier.
- Economywide inflation trends were mixed this month as CPI growth increased to 8.6%, but PPI growth declined very slightly to 10.8%. Services CPI (excluding healthcare) increased to 6.0% growth in May, up from 5.6% last month, but still well below commodities inflation, which was at 13.0% year over year.
- Among major health care categories, physician services and prescription drug prices increased the least in March (0.4% and 1.9% year over year respectively), while dental care services increased the fastest at 2.7%.
- Growth in prices paid by the two major public payers (Medicare and Medicaid) diverged in newly updated data for much of 2022—Medicare price growth has slowed to just 0.2% year over year, while Medicaid price growth has accelerated, now matching private insurance price growth for health services at 3.0%.
- Growth in our implicit measure of utilization for April ticked up slightly to 3.0%, led by hospital services and prescription drug utilization, each rising at 4.7%.
Health employment continues moderate growth, still below pre-pandemic peak
- Health care employment grew by 28,300 jobs in May 2022. In a departure from the typical pattern of employment shifting from inpatient and residential care to ambulatory settings, most of the gains in May were in hospitals (16,300 jobs), nursing and residential care showed positive growth (5,600 jobs), and ambulatory care employment grew only modestly (6,400 jobs).
- More than two years since the start of the pandemic, the level of health employment is 222,000 jobs (1.3%) below the pre-pandemic peak. Employment in ambulatory settings is now 242,000 jobs (3.1%) above where it was in February 2020, while hospital employment remains 75,000 jobs (1.4%) below February 2020 and nursing and residential care employment is down by 390,000 jobs (11.6% decline).
- The economy added 390,000 jobs in May. Through the first five months of 2022, the economy added an average of 488,000 jobs per month. Total employment is now less than one million jobs and a half a percent below where it was in February 2020, while the unemployment rate remains at 3.6%.
- Wage data are consistent with a tight labor market overall and in health care in particular. Average hourly earnings in health care grew 6.9% year over year in April 2022 (the most recent industry-level data). Earnings across all private sector jobs grew 5.5% year over year in April and 5.2% in May 2022.