Unprecedented Growth in Healthcare Workforce Demand in the 2020s: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics portray a very challenging decade ahead for healthcare organizations trying to find the nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals they need.

While healthcare shows the fastest and largest new job growth compared to any other industry, the most alarming data may be the projected annual job openings in key professions, which are many times greater than the numbers of new jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Projections states that the aging population of the United States is the reason behind the growth in healthcare employment and job openings: “Increased demand for healthcare services from an aging population and people with chronic conditions will drive much of the expected employment growth.”

Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 1.9 million new jobs -- more than any other industry. Registered nurses, the occupation with the third highest job growth from 2018-2028, are projected to grow from 3,059,800 to 3,431,300, an increase of 371,500 new jobs.

The aging population also is driving retirements in the healthcare industry, which, along with other job separations, is fueling intense growth in job openings in healthcare. The latest projections show an average of 650,300 job openings per year for all healthcare practitioners and technical occupations from 2018-2028. There will be 210,400 nurse job openings each year, which represents an increase of about 6,000 annual nurse job openings a year from the 2016-2026 employment projections.

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The tsunami of retirements among Baby Boomer nurses and other practitioners is coupled with immense opportunities to seek new and better jobs in the superheated healthcare jobs marketplace. The result is a huge and growing number of job openings, many of which cannot be filled.

Data from another BLS survey, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, show that job openings outnumber job hires in healthcare by 2:1. There are approximately a half million unfilled healthcare jobs.

The upcoming decade is expected to see a worsening of this problem. By 2030, all Baby Boomers will have reached 65; the generation will be nearing full retirement. By 2035, the number of people over 65 in the United States will be greater than the number under 18 – for the first time in the nation’s history. The result of growth in retirement-age people and relative stasis in the number of young people will be that there will not be enough people to fill the work shoes of retirees – in healthcare and all professions.