Asian female medical professional with hand on head
(Credit: ER Productions Limited / Getty Images)

Senior living community and nursing home facility employees saw the largest drop in employment in the aftermath of the pandemic, but they also have seen the highest average wage increases, according to a new analysis. 

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed how jobs and wages in the healthcare industry recovered compared with non-healthcare sectors and how this recovery is distributed across healthcare providers.

Although employment levels overall sharply rebounded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of workers employed in senior living communities and nursing homes continues to remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels, according to Peterson-KFF. Comparatively, hospitals and physician offices have nearly returned to pre-pandemic employment levels.

Community elder care facilities saw a 6.5% decrease in employees from February 2020 to December 2022, whereas nursing care facilities saw a 13.3% drop, according to the analysis. Health employment overall fell 8.2% from April 2019 to April 2020, whereas non-health employment fell 14%. 

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care previously reported that assisted living communities, continuing care retirement communities and skilled nursing facilities have experienced slower workforce recoveries compared with other healthcare sectors. And although the areas have seen monthly job gains, jobs have remained below their July 2019 high point.

But although senior living and care providers continue to struggle with staffing levels, long-term care workers saw higher-than-average wage increases, according to the analysis. 

Wages for community elder care facility workers increased 20.5% between February 2020 and November 2022, and nursing home employee average earnings rose by 21.8%.

These increases compare with overall private-sector wages for health employees, which have increased by 14.6% since mid-2021, and healthcare employee average wages, which have increased 17%.

Although average wages for long-term care positions have increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic, the authors noted that those increases in part could be a function of fewer low-wage workers employed in such settings.