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Health Spending Growth Remains Low, But Jobs Rebound

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ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – National health expenditures grew 3.9 percent in July 2013, relative to July 2012, in line with the low levels reported since 2009, the Ann Arbor-based Altarum Institute reported.

The health spending share of gross domestic product was 17.5 percent in June, essentially unchanged since the recession ended in June 2009. (Recent benchmark revisions to underlying government GDP data shifted this trend line below its previous value of about 18 percent).

After the decade-low employment growth initially reported in July, health care rebounded in August 2013 to rise by 33,000 jobs, well above the 24-month average of 23,000 new jobs a month. June and July figures were also revised up by a net 14,000 jobs, so that July growth was about half the average pace (11,000), versus its initially reported dramatic low. Ambulatory jobs were up by 27,000, the highest increase in over two years, while hospital jobs remained flat. The health sector share of total employment rose to 10.73 percent in August, matching its all-time high rate last seen in April 2013.

As previously reported, health care prices grew 1.1 percent in July 2013, in relation to July 2012, only a tenth of a percentage point above the May rate, which was the lowest ever in Altarum’s history of collecting the data, extending back to January 1990. The 12-month moving average, at 1.6 percent, is a record low as well. (Price information for August 2013 will be available on Sept. 17.)

These data come from the monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators briefs released by Altarum’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending, http://www.altarum.org/HealthIndicators.

“Health spending and prices continue their low growth, so the main news this month is the rebound in health sector jobs,” said Charles Roehrig, director of the center. “While this one-month surge in jobs mutes the overall downward trend for 2013, we still expect health job growth for the full year to be significantly less than it was in 2012. Meanwhile, we eagerly await the release of the new government 10-year forecast of health spending scheduled for later this month.”

Altarum provides research and consulting to the health care industry. Altarum employs more than 400 individuals at its Ann Arbor headquarters and offices in Washington, D.C., Portland, Maine and San Antonio, Texas.

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