Unlike the rest of the healthcare sector, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are still struggling to retain employees nearly a year after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.

Preliminary federal data for December showed nursing and residential care facilities lost 13,000 jobs during the month, according to a year-end report by the nonprofit research and consulting group Altarum. 

Overall, the sector has lost 264,000 jobs since February. That marks a 7.8% drop in employment when compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

In comparison, the healthcare sector gained 39,000 jobs during December after gaining 31,000 in November. Overall, the healthcare sector is down by about 500,000 jobs since February — a 3% drop compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

The analysis was first reported by Modern Healthcare on Monday. The figures aren’t surprising following the impact the pandemic has had on the sector, Anne Montgomery, Altarum’s co-director for its program to improve eldercare, told the news organization.

“To say the sector has been hard hit has been an understatement. It’s now a more dangerous place to work, and people understand that. I’m not surprised people are worried about going into nursing homes,” Montgomery said of the workforce demand. She also noted more funding to improve staffing ratios and salary could help bring more workers in. 

The report also noted it’s healthcare sector “unusual” for the industry to lose jobs and revenue, even during economic downturns. Despite that, healthcare has still “performed better than the overall economy.” 

“There are 9.8 million fewer jobs in the economy at the end of 2020 compared to the peak in February 2020, a decline of 6.5%. If we take out the health sector, total non-health jobs are down 6.9%,” the analysis explained. 

“In a pattern that is familiar from past recessions, the better performance of the health sector means that the health share of total U.S. employment has grown again, from 10.8% at the beginning of 2020 to 11.2% at the end of the year. Healthcare now officially employs more than one in nine working Americans,” it added.