No one needs to tell healthcare facilities managers about the challenges created by staffing shortages. They have faced staffing issues since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, and they have implemented a range of strategies and tactics designed to soften the impact of the shortages and workforce contractions on facility operations and safety. But a closer look at employment data reveals that not all types of healthcare facilities have been affected to the same degree.
Nursing care facilities, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), and assisted living properties have experienced a longer workforce contraction compared with other adjacent healthcare industries, according to the National Investment Center’s Insights in Senior Housing & Care.
The seasonally adjusted number of employees at skilled nursing properties dropped by 238,500 jobs or 15.1percent over the period from March 2020 to March 2022, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. From March 2022, employment in skilled nursing edged up by 5,400 jobs and stood at 1,348,100 in May 2022 — still 233,100 jobs below pre-pandemic March 2020 levels, or about 14.7 percent.
Similarly, the number of workers across CCRC and assisted living dropped significantly during the height of the pandemic, with a decline of 70,900 and 34,900 jobs respectively, equivalent to negative 13.9 percent for CCRC (from March 2020 to January 2022) and negative 7.5% for the assisted living workforce (from March 2020 to November 2021).
The good news is total employment within the CCRC and assisted living sectors inched up in recent months by 0.8percent (3,600 jobs) and 1.8 percent (7,700 jobs) from their pandemic related lows, respectively, but unfortunately remained far below pre-pandemic March 2020 levels, with negative 13.2 percent for CCRC (negative 67,300 jobs) and negative 5.8 percent for assisted living (negative 27,200 jobs).
These stats show that assisted living is experiencing a relatively fast workforce recovery compared with CCRC and skilled nursing. Notably and as background, NIC MAP Vision data shows that occupancy and demand levels as measured by the change in occupied units for assisted living have been recovering relatively fast also compared with skilled nursing and CCRCs.
Interestingly, employment across adjacent healthcare industry groups, including general medical and surgical hospital, home health care services, individual and family services, and offices or physicians dropped in the very early months of the pandemic, but the level of workers across these industries began to recover back in April and May of 2020.
The relatively fast recovery across these healthcare industries suggests that these sectors have been successful in attracting and retaining workers during the pandemic, some of whom may have been part of the senior housing and skilled nursing workforce prior to the pandemic, and that demand has been relatively strong compared with skilled nursing and senior housing.