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Healthcare Workforce During COVID -19: Results from an Environmental Scan

Zachary Epstein and Maureen Sarna, Abt Global


August 4, 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. policymakers thought the healthcare system could provide low-income individuals with well paid jobs with career advancement potential. The pandemic may have changed that assumption.

This brief reviews changes in the labor market for healthcare workers during the first seven months of the pandemic, with an emphasis on jobs targeted by a significant ongoing investment in healthcare workforce development: the Health Profession Opportunity Grants (HPOG) awarded by the Administration for Children and Families. The brief summarizes the results of an environmental scan of published research, analysis, and reporting and analyzes publicly available labor market data through September 2020.

Healthcare employment fell more than nine percent from January to April 2020 but recovered about 60 percent of those losses through September 2020 as demand for healthcare services and workers rebounded. The hospital, home health, and long-term care sectors that tend to employ workers in occupations targeted by HPOG trainings experienced smaller decreases in employment after the onset of the pandemic and no evidence of decreasing compensation. Still, some evidence suggests that HPOG workers may have faced a slacker labor market. And unemployment rates in healthcare were higher for women and workers in lower-skill occupations.