Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare and Social Assistance Occupations

In the past five weeks, 9,596 Healthcare and Social Service workers in Portland Metro filed initial unemployment claims. This represents 9 percent of the 2019 workforce. (Table 1) Initially, due to the nature of the crisis, it looked like the sector might be spared the widespread job losses. However, during the first week after the COVID-19 economic crisis hit, six hundred and nine Portland Metro Healthcare and Social Assistance workers filed claims, representing an increase of 600 percent from the previous week’s filings. (Table 2)

By early April, major healthcare employers across Portland Metro were announcing layoffs and salary reductions. The Oregon Clinic and Women’s Healthcare Associates laid off staff while OHSU announced salary reductions for employees earning more than $50,000 per year.

Currently, there are more online job postings for registered nurses than any other occupation in Oregon. However, the number of postings is down 7 percent from the same period last year. Occupations for which demand is up from last month and last year and mostly limited to low-wage jobs in nursing homes and residential facilities. (Table 5)

The long-term impact of the economic crisis on Healthcare and Social Assistance remains to be seen. Governor Brown included elective medical procedures in the first wave of planned economic reopening. Even when they resume, some patients may not feel comfortable visiting hospital and dentists and doctors’ offices.

The Healthcare sector includes hospitals, offices of physicians, dentists and other Healthcare providers, outpatient health clinics, and nursing and residential care facilities. The Social Assistance sector includes Individual and Family Services, Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Child Day Care Services. With 108,755 jobs and a payroll of $7.5 billion (2019), the sector accounts for 13 percent of Portland Metro’s private-sector employment and 10 percent of payroll.

More than 400 occupations are found throughout the Healthcare and Social Assistance sector. The 10 largest occupations, headed by Registered Nurses, account for half of total employment. Educational requirements range from less than a high school diploma to a Doctoral or professional degree, although the need for a college education is more prevalent in Healthcare compared to the overall economy. Three out of ten of the sector’s largest occupations, which account for 62 percent of its current workforce, require a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Wages averaged $63,100 in 2019, about the same as the overall economy. Higher wages in ambulatory care ($87,900) and hospitals ($87,300) were partially offset by low wages in nursing and residential care ($42,030), and social assistance ($31,500).

Healthcare has been a key driver of employment growth at both the national and local level. It has added jobs every year over the past decade, even throughout the recession- the only major industry to do so. Employers created 11,373 new jobs between 2008 and 2018 for a growth rate of 22 percent; over twice as fast as the overall economy. The ambulatory care component (e.g. doctors’ offices) led growth.

Date posted: 
Monday, April 27, 2020