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Coronavirus

Healthcare and Medical Research Postings Decline


Both sectors hit by COVID-19.

Key Points

  • Both healthcare and medical research postings have slowed since COVID-19 hit the US, though medical research has held up better.
  • Job seeker interest in both has remained consistent, probably because of the high degree of specialization required for jobs like radiologist and vaccine researcher. 
  • Health job postings are noting that personal protective equipment is provided, with the share of job postings per million citing ‘PPE provided’ in the job title up 43.9% from May 1 to June 26.

It’s an understatement to say that coronavirus has turned daily life and the economy upside down. Healthcare, which includes jobs like registered nurse and clinician, and medical research, comprising such occupations as epidemiologist and lab researcher, have been on the forefront of combatting the pandemic. Workers in the two sectors have labored tirelessly to understand the virus, treat those infected, and develop vaccines to stem it. Nonetheless, even though these sectors are on the front lines, neither has been immune from the economic turmoil COVID-19 has brought. Indeed job posting trends show that, in recent weeks, healthcare postings have fallen even more than overall job postings. Medical research postings, though still down, have fallen less than overall postings.

Both sectors saw job postings slow as the pandemic took hold, though at first both held up better than the job market overall. But, starting May 31, healthcare postings have been dropping more than job postings overall. In the seven days ending June 26, average daily healthcare postings were down 31% from the comparable period in 2019. At the same time, the gap between healthcare and overall posting grew to four percentage points. The likely reason? Coronavirus has battered hospital budgets, while reopening of previously shuttered businesses like restaurants and hair salons has boosted overall posting trends.

This pattern holds for many healthcare subsectors. Through June 26, the trends for medical technician and dental job postings were starting to bounce back, but pharmacy and nursing postings were continuing to slip.

Healthcare has also faced unique COVID-19 challenges, such as protective equipment shortages. On PPE (personal protective equipment), a few employers are taking steps to reassure job seekers. From May 1 to June 26, the share of postings per million that noted ‘PPE provided’ in the job title grew 43.9%, with most of these healthcare-related. To be sure, the number of postings that include this language is very small. But, before the pandemic, no postings included  ‘PPE provided’ in the job title.

For their part, medical research postings have followed a downward trend after experiencing an uptick in mid-March. This highlights that even the sector that may help defeat coronavirus has not been left unscathed. At its nadir in early May, the seven-day moving average of medical research job postings was off nearly 28% from the year before. Since then, there’s been some improvement. As of June 26, the medical research seven-day moving average had pared its year-over-year losses to 22%. 

Job seeker interest mostly steady

In the early weeks of the pandemic, job seeker interest in medical research positions rose slightly relative to the average job, but there was no uptick in interest in healthcare jobs. In February, healthcare job postings received 69% and medical research postings 119% of the clicks on the average job posting. By June 26, healthcare postings were attracting 77% and medical research jobs 142% of the clicks on the average job.

While there has been a slight boost, it is par for the course that interest hasn’t drastically changed in the two sectors during COVID-19, given their high specialization requirements. For example, it is impossible to be a registered nurse or vaccine researcher without years of training and, in some cases, meeting strict licensing requirements. A person who makes an investment in such preparation is unlikely to switch gears because the economy is tough.

Conclusion

Although the healthcare and medical research sectors are on the forefront of the fight against coronavirus, both have been battered by the pandemic’s economic turmoil, with job posting trends slower than last year. Healthcare held up better initially, but is now slowing more than the economy overall. Medical research bottomed in early May and has been improving since. Job seeker interest in both sectors has remained relatively steady, probably because of the high level of preparation required for jobs in these fields. It is an unfortunate irony that coronavirus is undermining the job prospects of the very workers who are critical to overcoming this crisis.

Methodology

Healthcare jobs were identified by a curated list of 590 healthcare-related job titles. The medical research sector is defined as job postings from the following categories: Specimen Collection & Laboratory Analysis Occupations, Epidemiologists, Toxicology & Pharmacology Researchers Occupations, Chemical, Cosmetics & Pharmaceuticals Production Occupations, Public Health and Health Policy Researchers.

To measure job posting trends, we calculated the seven-day moving average of the number of US job postings on Indeed. We index each day’s seven-day moving average to the start of that year (Feb 1, 2020 = 100 for 2020 data, and so on), or another date if specified on the chart.

We report how the trend in job postings this year differs from last year’s trend in order to focus on recent changes in labor market conditions due to COVID-19. For example, if job postings for a country increased 30% from February 1, 2019, to May 22, 2019, but only 20% from February 1, 2020, to May 22, 2020, then the index would have risen from 100 to 130 in 2019 and 100 to 120 in 2020. The year-to-date job posting trend would therefore be down 7.7% on May 22 (120 is 7.7% below 130) in 2020 relative to 2019.