Healthcare Wages Stagnant 2005-2015 Despite Rapid Increase in Employment

September 13, 2017

Healthcare, which accounts for 12.8 percent of private sector employment is one of the most important sources of jobs in the economy. In our report, Organizational Restructuring in U.S. Healthcare Systems: Implications for Jobs, Wages, and Inequality, we examine in great detail what has happened to workers over the decade from 2005 to 2015 as the consolidation of hospitals and the decentralization of health services and jobs accelerated.

In this blog post, we examine broad trends in employment and wages. Overall in health care, private sector employment grew by 20 percent from 2005 to 2015. Hospitals continue to provide the lion’s share of Jobs, but employment grew by just under 10 percent in this decade, more slowly than in healthcare overall. By contrast, employment in the much smaller outpatient care sector increased by almost 60 percent – six times faster than in hospitals.

The most rapidly growing occupational group is healthcare professionals, which increased by 48.2 percent over the 2005-2015 decade, from 3.4 million to 5.0 million workers. The two largest non-professional occupation groups – medical technicians and health aides & assistants – grew 17.2 percent and 20.0 percent respectively. At the end of the decade the healthcare industry employed 2.1 million medical technicians and 3.4 million health aides & assistants – together totaling slightly more than healthcare professionals. The much smaller social services occupation group grew at 20 percent, increasing the number of jobs in this category to 329,000. Outsourcing of jobs in food and cleaning services, coupled with the much smaller demand for these occupations in outpatient care facilities led to a small increase in employment in food services and a decline in cleaning services.

Despite this rapid job growth, median real wages of full-time, full-year healthcare employees were stagnant – rising modestly in some industry sector/occupation groups and falling in others.


Healthcare professionals saw an increase of just 60 cents an hour in median real pay in hospitals over the decade, and an even smaller increase in outpatient care.

It is striking how low the median pay of medical technicians and social services workers in hospitals and outpatient care is, ranging from $37,000 to $45,000 a year in 2015 depending on industry sector and occupation. Medical technicians saw their median real pay drop in both hospitals and outpatient care. Median real pay of social services workers rose by $1.09 over 10 years or about 11 cents a year in hospitals, and by 32 cents over 10 years or a fraction over 3 cents a year in outpatient care.

Median pay of health aides & assistants working full-time, full-year was less than $15 an hour in 2015; it fell in hospitals and was flat in outpatient care. The median pay of food service and cleaning service workers rose somewhat in settings, but was still just $11.78 to $12.27 an hour in 2015.

Future blog posts will examine employment and wage trends by gender, race/ethnicity, age, educational attainment, and nativity. They will also examine the effects of these trends on inequality.

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