concerned worker

Although employment in the overall economy fell for the first time since April, healthcare employment grew by 39,000 jobs, comparable with the 31,000 jobs added in November, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit research and consulting group Altarum. Still, as 2020 ended, the report showed, healthcare employment had not yet fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels and remained approximately 3% below its February 2020 peak, a half a million job difference. 

Workforce numbers are even worse within the long-term care sector, however, as nursing homes and other long-term care facilities continue to struggle to retain employees almost a year after the start of the pandemic. Nursing and residential care employment saw another month of decline in December, closing the year down 262,000 jobs compared with February, a 7.8% decline. Nursing homes alone lost 153,000 jobs over the course of 2020, almost 10% of the workforce.

The figures aren’t surprising following the effect the pandemic has had on the sector, according to Anne Montgomery, Altarum’s co-director for its program to improve eldercare.

“To say the sector has been hard hit has been an understatement,” Montgomery told Modern Healthcare this week. “It’s now a more dangerous place to work, and people understand that. I’m not surprised people are worried about going into nursing homes.” More funding to improve staffing ratios and salary could help bring more workers in, she noted.