National health spending accounted for 18.1% of gross domestic product in April, but that figure has been declining steadily over the past several months, according to Altarum’s monthly Health Sector Economic Indicators brief, published Thursday.

In December, spending represented 18.7% of the GDP.

GDP in April 2022 was 9.7% higher than in April 2021 as growth continues to outpace health spending growth, Altarum said. The difference in growth mainly is due to the recent high rate of inflation, which has not yet had a major effect on health spending, the brief noted.

Additionally, national health spending in April 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%,” the analysts wrote.

Meanwhile, the nursing home industry has started to realize employment gains after losing more than 200,000 workers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the healthcare sector added 28,300 jobs during the month of May, with nursing facilities and hospitals experiencing some of the largest gains within the sector. Nursing homes and residential care communities showed positive growth, with 5,600 jobs added, according to the HSEI brief. Even so, nursing and residential care employment is down by 390,000 jobs (11.6%) since the start of the pandemic, Altarum said.

Healthcare wages have been increasing at a faster rate than in other industries since mid-2021, according to the brief. Health sector wages increased an average of 5.4% in the first four months of 2022, whereas health sector earnings averaged 7.1% growth over the same period. 

“The April reading of 6.9% earnings growth is a drop from March growth of 7.4%, but it is too soon to say healthcare wage growth is moderating,” the authors wrote.