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The jobs report released this week has drawn attention for both the number of people leaving their positions and those that remain open — statistics that are of particular relevance to the health care industry.  

Across all sectors of the U.S. economy, nearly 4.6 million people left their jobs in November, which was an increase from 2.8 percent of all workers in October to 3 percent. It also made November what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics described in its monthly report as a two-decade long “series high.” September 2021, by contrast, was the previous high at 4.4 million.  

Specific to health care, which falls into the BLS category for education and health services, nearly 660,00 people left their positions, which is outpaced only by 996,000 in trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities and 920,000 in accommodations and hotels. 

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Digging deeper into the health care realm, BLS data shows that the health care and social assistance sector hired 718,000 people in November, but the industry still has 1.8 million openings, down slightly from October 2021 and up from November 2020’s 1.2 million openings.  

“Workforce is the top challenge right now for CEOs. All industries are challenged right now, and labor is scarce across the board but in health care, it’s a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, some of the areas that are most strained are emergency rooms, critical care units and areas that saw the most intense utilization and grimmest stories during COVID,” Indiana Hospital Association President Brian Tabor said in a Health Evolution article published in December 2021.  

University of Chicago Medicine Dean for Medical Education Vineet Arora, MD, added in the article: “Hospitals are seeing problems with retention. They are offering flexibility, fluidity and top-dollar to keep clinicians, but people have PTSD from the pandemic and there’s an overwhelming sense of ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’”  

When will the health care workforce challenges start to look better? Anything resembling a conclusive answer is, of course, difficult to predict.  

An economist suggests in USA Today, on the one hand, that more Americans will return to the workforce when COVID-19 eases. On the other hand, Morning Consult research found that 1 in 5 health care workers had quit since February 2020 and among those who remained approximately 30 percent are considering leaving — not entirely surprising given that nearly 80 percent of participants indicated that the existing talent shortage has impacted either the workplace or them personally.  

Homepage image photo credit: Laura Davidson on Unsplash

Tom Sullivan

Tom Sullivan brings more than two decades in editing and journalism experience to Health Evolution. Sullivan most recently served as Editor-in-Chief at HIMSS, leading Healthcare IT News, Health Finance, MobiHealthNews. Prior to HIMSS Media, Sullivan was News Editor of IDG’s InfoWorld, directing a dozen reporters’ coverage for the weekly print publication and daily website.