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Low Health Job Growth Accompanies Low Health Spending Increase

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Altarum headquarters in Ann Arbor. Photo by Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia Commons.

Altarum headquarters in Ann Arbor. Photo by Dwight Burdette via Wikimedia Commons.

mattroush Matt Roush
Matt Roush joined WWJ Newsradio 950 in September 2001 to spearhead the...
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ANN ARBOR (WWJ) – The health care industry across the United States lost 400 jobs in January, and revised data for December showed a scant gain of 2,400 jobs, according to data gathered by the Ann Arbor-bsaed Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

This two-month increase of 2,000 jobs is the lowest since the institute’s data series began in 1989, and the three-month moving average gain of 10,500 jobs has not been lower in more than a decade.

Benchmark revisions to the establishment survey shifted the historical series of health sector jobs down by about 70,000, while increasing total nonfarm jobs by 370,000, dropping the health sector share of total employment from 10.71 percent to 10.62 percent.

Altarum’s data show that national health expenditures grew at an annual rate of 4.1 percent in 2013. While above the 3.7 percent seen in 2012, this looks to be the fifth consecutive year of spending growth in the 4 percent vicinity, a rate not previously seen in the 50-plus years of national health expenditures beginning in the late 1960s.

The December 2013 year-over-year rate of 4.5 percent could be signaling a long-expected acceleration as the impact of the recession wanes, but these data are preliminary and will be revised in each of the next two months (and again in July).

The health spending share of gross domestic product was 17.3 percent in December 2013, a rate that has been mostly stable since hitting its all-time high of 17.5 percent in July 2009.

As Altarum reported on Jan. 17, national health care prices in December 2013 were 1.1 percent higher than in December 2012, barely above the all-time low of 1 percent recorded in October 2013.

To view Altarum’s full Health Sector Economic Indicators Briefs, visit http://www.altarum.org/HealthIndicators.

“We have noted since first publishing on the health care spending slowdown that health labor would eventually need to follow suit,” said Charles Roehrig, director of the center. “We have apparently finally reached that point. Also, as we noted last month, the data suggest an upward drift in the health spending growth rate since the first quarter of 2013, but we will await revised data before issuing a clearer verdict. Of course, most of our attention will be on gauging spending effects of the Affordable Care Act insurance coverage expansion that begins this year.”

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