Nursing Home Job Growth Lags Far Behind Other Major Health Segments

Despite huge growth across the board, nursing homes are adding jobs more slowly than any other major health care segment in the U.S.

That’s according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). The report, which was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, tracks the changing patterns of jobs and wages for health care workers.

The nursing home industry added 76,640 jobs, which is an increase of just 4.9% between 2005 and 2015, the report found. Nursing homes represented 10.4% of the U.S. health care segment’s total jobs for the decade.

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For reference, the overall health care industry — which includes hospitals, outpatient care centers, physicians’ offices, home health care services, and nursing homes — added nearly 2.7 million jobs and grew by 20.4% between 2005 and 2015.

Health care spending in the U.S. hit $3.2 trillion in 2015 and represented 17.8% of total gross domestic product (GDP). Health care positions also made up about 12.8% of private-sector jobs — and was the only industry that expanded during the Great Recession. In 2016, the sector added 381,000 private jobs, the most of any industry that year.

Despite those gains, nursing home employees don’t seem to be getting a larger piece of the pie. Real median hourly wages for full-time, full-year health care workers fell from $20.22 in 2005 to $19.73 in 2015, a change of about 2.4%, according to the report.

Other top takeaways related to nursing homes include:

* Union membership is falling among nursing home employees. The number of nursing home employees who belong to a union dropped to 125,000 in 2015, which is down from 158,000 in 2005. Just 6.9% of U.S. nursing home employees belonged to a union in 2015, a 1.5% change compared to 2005’s total of 8.4%.

* Nursing homes, along with hospitals, are increasingly outsourcing food service, housekeeping, security and management jobs to third-party providers such as Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass.

* Hospitals are turning to mergers and acquisitions to reach a larger consumer base, including some in markets with many nursing homes. As hospitals get bigger, they are increasingly creating full-service health care systems spanning physician practices, outpatient care centers, home health providers, and skilled nursing facilities.

“The findings in this report show that the unraveling of hospital-based employment systems is associated with stagnant or declining wages for health care workers,” the report reads. “In addition, this shift is leading to greater wage inequality. In hospitals, the modest rise in real wages among health care professionals and the fall in wages for non-professional groups suggest that inequality has increased within hospital settings.”

Read the full report online.

Written by Tim Regan

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