A nurse helps a nursing home resident with her tablet while another resident to the left of her stretches her legs
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Nursing and residential care settings were seeing employment growth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that could have given the industry 457,000 more workers than it has now had it continued, according to a new analysis.

The latest data was detailed by research and consulting organization Altarum in an analysis published Monday. 

Senior economist Ani Turner explained that historical trends for the sector included a slow decline in jobs in nursing homes offset by slow growth in other residential care settings. Had that continued, employment would have been higher by 457,000 jobs, or 15.5%. 

“Since February 2020, employment in nursing and residential care settings has dropped by 420,000 jobs,” Turner told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Wednesday. 

She added that pre-pandemic growth had continued, there would have been about 37,000 more jobs by the end of 2021, compared to early 2020. 

“So, if the pre-pandemic trend had continued, with 37,000 new jobs and without the drop of 420,000 jobs, there would be 457,000 more jobs in nursing and residential care than we see today,” she explained. 

Overall, healthcare employment ended 2021 up 63,000 jobs, a 0.4% increase, when compared to December 2020. The growth shows the implications of a “marked shift from institutional settings to ambulatory care settings,” Turner wrote. 

“Jobs in ambulatory settings such as provider offices, clinics, labs and home health grew by 3.1% in 2021, while jobs in hospitals fell slightly by 0.6% and jobs in nursing and residential care fell substantially by 4.7%,” she reported. 

“In terms of numbers of jobs, ambulatory care settings added 242,000 jobs, hospitals lost 33,000 jobs, and nursing and residential care lost 146,000 jobs [in 2021],” she added.