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Old 01-23-2009, 07:00 AM
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Default Healthcare is a bright spot in the US Employment

Health Care Among Few Bright Spots In US Employment Picture
1-20-09 7:20 PM EST

The overall employment picture in the U.S. continues to be dismal after employers shed about 2.6 million jobs last year, but the health-care sector is one of the few relative bright spots.
Health care saw a net gain of 419,000 jobs in 2008 and its growth outlook continues to be strong through 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Among specific occupations, the number of registered nurses grew the most, adding 168,000 jobs through November as hospitals and agencies tried to address a nationwide nursing shortage. Payrolls also increased substantially among personal and home care aides, who typically need only short-term, on-the-job training to get into the field.
The number of home care aides grew by 64,000 in 2008, the BLS said. Office and administrative support workers such as medical-records clerks accounted for 14% of the overall increase in health-care jobs year over year.
Will health-care employment continue growing this year? Yes, but not uniformly, say labor-market experts.
"Overwhelmingly, employers are taking a wait-and-see attitude on hiring in 2009," said Jason Ferrara, vice president for corporate marketing for Careerbuilder.com, a free job-recruiting site based in Chicago. "However, health care seems to be one of those industries where hiring is still needed and still expected."
The portion of large health-care companies planning to increase the number of full-time employees this year is about equal to the percentage planning to reduce jobs in 2009 - 17% and 16%, respectively, according to a CareerBuilder poll of 329 hiring managers in late November. More than two-thirds of employers with 50 or more workers are unsure of their plans or say they'll make no change in staff levels.
Still, the aging of the baby boomers, rapid product development in biotechnology and increased momentum for comprehensive national health-care reform are likely to drive job growth this year, said John Challenger, chief executive of outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago.
"Long-term forces are outweighing the short-term recessionary forces," he said.
"There's strong demand for geriatricians, physical therapists and nurses of all kinds," Challenger said, noting support work is hot as well, especially as the incoming Obama administration takes up health reform. "A commitment to a new kind of more universal health-care system is going to create a new structure and consequently new jobs."
Nurses remain among the most sought-after practitioners in the health-care sector. The ranks of registered nurses are expected to swell by 587,000 in the next seven years, a 23% growth rate, according to the BLS. Licensed practical or vocational nurses, who can begin working with less than the bachelor's or associate degree typically required for registered nurses, are expected to grow 14%, an addition of 105,000 new jobs.
Not all health-care jobs involve direct patient care and years of study. Big growth also is expected in less training-intense positions such as medical assistants and pharmacy technicians, said Dennis Damp, the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based author of "Healthcare Job Explosion" and editor of Healthcarejobs.org, a free recruiting Web site.
He said about half of the BLS' 30 fastest-growing occupations through 2016 are health-related. -Kristen Gerencher; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com

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