Reported unemployment rates among healthcare workers didn’t rise as much as those for workers in other fields during the pandemic, according to research published Monday in JAMA.
Healthcare workers reported unemployment rates of 2.28% compared to 3.82% among non-healthcare workers just before the pandemic. During the pandemic, unemployment rates among healthcare workers rose to 3.18% while those for non-healthcare workers rose to 6.13%, according to the study.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, workers across all industries suffered major job losses. The U.S. lost 1.4 million healthcare jobs that April, representing about 7% of the nation’s total monthly losses, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most of those lost healthcare jobs have since been recovered. Employment in the sector is down 0.2%, or 37,000 jobs, from February 2020, according to the latest monthly data from the BLS.
But still, health systems are facing widespread burnout and problems recruiting and retaining enough staff after those who worked the front lines of the pandemic reassess their roles.
To gauge unemployment rates during the pandemic among healthcare workers, JAMA researchers looked at current population survey data from January 2015 to April 2022 among a sample of more than 500,000 respondents working in a hospital or health services role. The majority of those surveyed were female, non-Hispanic White and held bachelor’s degrees.
Among different kinds of those workers, therapists, technicians, aides and other healthcare workers in lower-paying roles saw larger increases in reported unemployment rates relative to physicians, the study found.
Reported unemployment rises among women, Hispanic, non-Hispanic Black and older cohorts were not significantly different than those among men, non-Hispanic White and younger cohorts, researchers found.