Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oregon's Post-Recession Health Care Workforce

As the broad economy stagnated, health care employment surged 36 percent between 2000 and 2011. So where have all the health care workers come from? Is it possible that some laid-off workers made a transition to health care payrolls as other industries slowed down? There is a source that lets us dig into questions like this: the Oregon Employment Department's Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records.Using these administrative wage record files, it is possible to match today's health care workforce with the workforce just before the Great Recession took hold at the end of 2007.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, 179,824 Oregon workers held jobs in the health care industry. More than half of them (57%) were already working in health care when the Great Recession hit in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Wage file data does not tell us about occupational mix - so it is hard to know whether workers who appear in health care wage records by late 2011 retrained for a new career after leaving other industries, or whether they're doing similar work in a different firm and industry. Newer health care workers came most frequently from retail trade, and leisure and hospitality. It's possible these workers were in some sort of health care training and holding part-time jobs while in school, as leisure and retail are two industries with lots of part-time and shift work that students can fit into their schedules.

However, we haven't really seen the potential effect of workers moving from declining industries to health care. Manufacturing and construction were the hardest hit industries in the Great Recession, but few of these workers left to join the health care payrolls. Workers in manufacturing at the start of the recession accounted for 2,400 health care workers, or 1.4 percent of the health care workforce. Construction accounted for just 0.6 percent of today's health care workers, with 1,000 transitioning into health care over the past four years. Now, because these industries share little in the way of skills with health care, it is possible that more will show up in a future analysis once they've completed training for their new careers.

Get more details on the health care workforce from the full article, written by Economist Jessica Nelson.

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