This economic downturn was unique in that healthcare did something it’s never done before: Providers reallocated inpatient beds, cleared out capacity and shut down outpatient procedures, resulting in unprecedented volume declines, Shehata said.
“That is far more than what we’ve ever seen in a normal recessionary period,” he said.
Within healthcare, the ambulatory sector added 375,700 new jobs in May.
Dentists’ offices saw the strongest recovery, having added 244,800 jobs. Dentists’ offices across the country largely closed in March and April due to stay-at-home orders and were the hardest hit healthcare sector in April, losing half a million jobs that month alone. As states begin to re-open, dentists have been at the front of that wave, often with significantly increased personal protective equipment requirements.
This week, 77% of dental offices report they are fully paying their staff, compared with just 10% in April, preliminary data from the American Dental Association show.
Offices of other healthcare practitioners added 73,100 jobs in May. Physicians’ offices added 51,300 jobs, a rebound after having lost 243,000 jobs in April. Home health care shrunk by 3,000 jobs, even after shedding 93,600 in April.
Employment in nursing care facilities fell by 18,000 jobs in May, and by 10,800 jobs in residential mental health facilities. Community care facilities for the elderly declined by 8,300 jobs.
The pace of healthcare’s recovery will vary by state. A recent Jefferies analysis found hospital traffic in California had only recovered 10% as of May 31 from its lowest point on April 12. Texas hospital traffic, by contrast, was up 40% at the end of May from its April 11 trough.
May’s report also highlighted a broader economic recovery, with 2.5 million jobs added and the unemployment rate falling to 13.3%, from 14.7% in April. The BLS said that’s because of the resumption of limited economic activity that had been curtailed in March and April because of the pandemic.
More than 15 million people reported being on temporary layoff in May, or about 73% of the unemployed. That’s compared to 78% of unemployed reporting being on temporary layoff in April.
Leisure and hospitality, which includes hotels, restaurants, bars and entertainment, saw far and away the biggest comeback last month, having added 1.2 million jobs. Construction topped healthcare’s new jobs, having added 464,000 jobs in May, and retail made 368,000 new hires.
States’ reopenings raises the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, which could throw a wrench in healthcare’s recovery. Shehata said he thinks the more important factor will be providers’ ability to convince patients it’s safe to come back.
“Health systems have to step up and make a strong point to consumers that they are leading the way, preparing for this and doing everything possible to keep their population safe and healthy through this pandemic,” he said. “That could be the biggest indicator of whether we’re a V, U or W-shaped recovery in healthcare.”