Healthcare jobs will be amongst the fastest-growing in the United States through 2026, accounting for about 2.3 million new jobs, according to recent projections released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But will health providers have access to enough skilled workers to meet this growth? Probably not.
In many states, the projected supply of healthcare workers will be unable to fill demand, according to Mercer’s recent US healthcare labor market analysis, which compares future supply and demand of workers to project workforce availability across 50 healthcare occupations through 2025.
More than half of the new jobs forecasted by BLS – about 1.6 million combined – will come from employment of Personal Care Aides, Home Health Aides, and Registered Nurses, driven by an American population that’s trending older, sicker, and more sedentary.
It’s in precisely these high-growth jobs where our analysis shows likely gaps in demand and supply of workers.
Take Home Health Aides, for example. According to BLS figures, employment is expected to grow 47% by 2026. However, our analysis shows that providers might find it tough to fill all these roles – with each state facing a likely gap of 2,000 workers on average by 2025 (see figure 1).
Although workforce availability gaps are highly likely across the country in key occupations, our analysis shows vast differences by location, requiring providers to take a closer look at workforce trends in their state and municipality for the clearest picture.
Nurses will continue to be in high demand and it’s widely known that health systems are facing a nursing shortage across the country. However, when we take into account projected supply and demand by state, this story changes depending on where you look.
In fact, our analysis shows that in some states, the projected supply of Nurses is likely to exceed demand. So while Texas might expect to be short nearly 40,000 nurses by 2025, Illinois is likely to have a surplus of 15,000 in the same time period (see figure 2).
An even more detailed look within states though shows that even in states where there’s a projected surplus – like Illinois – workforce gaps are still likely, due to uneven economic and demographic growth in rural and urban areas (see figure 3). Cook and Will counties, which include Chicago and some of its suburbs, are likely to see a surplus of 12,000 nurses through 2025—though much of this surplus will be Nursing Assistants. Communities in rural south central Illinois, however, are likely to see a gap of nearly 1,000 nurses during the same time period.
These potential gaps in availability of key workers will greatly impact providers as they consider the future-ready workforce they need to deliver quality patient care. A few things for providers to consider:
The good news is that much of this work relies on data that healthcare systems already collect. So it’s not a matter of getting new data, but rather better leveraging data to develop empirical insights that will drive strategic workforce planning.
By supplementing this internal data with an analysis of the external labor market (which we’ve already completed), providers will get a clear view of the labor risks they face and the actions they need to take build a future-ready workforce.