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How Will the Recession Affect Nursing Employment?

How Will the Recession Affect Nursing Employment?

John Rossheim | Monster Senior Contributing Writer

Will a global recession send millions of healthcare workers to the unemployment lines in 2009? Not likely, but healthcare job opportunities are likely to be trimmed on the margins, as US employment continues to drop, taking with it the health insurance of many Americans and reducing consumers’ appetite for elective procedures. That’s the consensus of industry insiders and observers.

Employment Growth Likely to Soften

The outlook for 2009 is for a gradual softening in healthcare employment. “Growth will continue to slow,” says George Van Horn, a senior analyst with industry research firm IBISWorld. “Unemployment affects insurance coverage and how often people go to the doctor. Income and the availability of credit affect the ability of medical practitioners to expand. And you’d expect that elective procedures will decline.”

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Still, even in October 2008, as the financial crisis spawned broader economic woes, medical and allied healthcare employment continued to rise. Employment in the healthcare industry topped 13.4 million workers, up 26,000 from the previous month and 348,000 greater than a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment marched upward in nearly all care settings: hospitals employed about 750,000 more people than a decade earlier; physicians’ offices had 60,000 more workers than in October 2007; and employment at nursing and residential care facilities was on track to hit 3 million by the end of 2008.

Recession Will Create Winners and Losers

The impact of the recession on healthcare employment will vary considerably according to healthcare specialty. “The winners will be critical care, outpatient care and emergency rooms; blood, organ and ambulatory services; and psychologists, social workers and others who treat stress,” Van Horn says. “The losers in this economy will be dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and practitioners in fertility and family planning.”

Certain niches, such as occupational health nurses, may see slower or declining growth in employment in 2009. Although demand for these specialty nurses, who treat workers in industrial and manufacturing settings, was strong into the last quarter of 2008, plant closings in some industries, especially automotive, could reduce demand, says Peter Ferguson, president of Health & Life Sciences at staffing firm Yoh.

Next: Downturn to Put Downward Pressure on Salaries >>

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