The health-care sector saw 1.2 million job losses in the month of April as the coronavirus pandemic caused dramatic drops in routine visits and forced hospitals to pause elective surgeries, a key source of revenue.
In previous economic downturns, the health-care industry has not taken such a hit. During the 2008 recession, the sector reported moderate but continuous growth. Government-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid can partially insulate health services from the fluctuations of the market, and as a result, doctors, nurses, medical assistants, billing clerks, and other health-care workers’ jobs are usually protected in an economic downturn. Indeed, health-care jobs have fallen by less than other industries, like hospitality, which saw 7 million job losses in April.
Some of the lost jobs are likely to come back later as patients who postponed care return once the lockdown eases, but pandemic-related changes to the health-care landscape may cost more jobs going forward. For instance, the rapid shift to telemedicine has temporarily eliminated many health administration jobs associated with running an in-person practice, and it is uncertain whether these changes will become permanent. In addition, hospitals have quickly digitized many processes for sharing records and COVID-19 data with one another and the state, a task that used to involve manual data input and faxing of documents.