Job seekers have long had the upper hand when it comes to hiring in the home health and home care markets.
But that’s quickly changing, new data suggests.
For years, both home health and home care agencies have struggled to hire enough workers to meet demand for their services, which continues to skyrocket as America’s population ages. In the past, the difficult, often low-wage work has also prompted in-home care professionals to hop around from one agency to the next, constantly hunting for better pay, benefits and overall circumstances.
To complicate matters further, home health and home care agencies have increasingly had to battle non-health care employers on the hiring front, particularly as the country’s retail and fast-food giants have implemented tough-to-beat minimum wage policies of $15 per hour or more.
Other health care entities have faced similar challenges in those regards, too.
“Prior to coronavirus, the health care market was a job seeker’s market,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, told Home Health Care News. “Job seeker interest was falling and the sector’s unemployment was incredibly low, meaning that employers were starting to scramble to find the workers they needed.”
In total, the health care sector employs more than 18 million workers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women represent nearly 80% of that workforce.
For home care, in particular, the industry turnover rate was 64% in 2019, according to market research and education firm Home Care Pulse. It was even higher in 2018, when the industry’s turnover rate hit an all-time high of 82%.
Turnover rates in the home health industry are significantly lower than in home care, but still relatively high compared to other sectors. For example, turnover rates for home care aides and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in 2019 were greater than 25% and 22%, respectively, according to the Hospital & Healthcare Compensation Service.
Generally speaking, keeping turnover low and employment stable is important to ensure continuity of care between in-home care professionals and the people they care for. Curbing turnover is also critical to an agency’s bottom line, as training each new recruit requires time, money and other resources.
“Turnover really begins to impact an agency’s ability to plan ahead and to strategize,” Kathy Febraio, president and CEO the New York State Association of Health Care Providers, previously told HHCN. “It also impacts their ability to provide consistent patient care.”
Job posting plummet
The Indeed Hiring Lab is an international team of economists who provide insights that help drive the global labor market conversation.
“Being a job board website, Indeed data provides insight into both job postings as well as job-seeker behavior,” Konkel said. “Hiring Lab’s analysis focuses on aggregated and anonymized data and trends. [Our findings] are robustly checked to ensure they are representative labor market trends.”
As of Aug. 28, job postings for home care and home health jobs were 14% below what the Hiring Lab saw at the same time in 2019, Konkel noted. Postings were holding up better than the broader labor market, however, as all job postings were down 20% from last year’s trend.
In addition to being down overall, the posting trend for home care and home health job postings had slipped by at least 1.6 percentage points leading up to the end of last month.
In other words: For a variety of reasons, home health and home care agencies simply aren’t looking to fill as many positions, which could benefit each market’s long-term outlook.
The posting slowdown could be due to coronavirus-linked unemployment creating a larger pool of job seekers, allowing agencies to promptly fill positions.
The country is somewhat rebounding from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the biggest economic recession in decades, but businesses continue to lay off hundreds of thousands of workers as they struggle to safely reopen. More than 857,000 U.S. workers filed first-time applications for unemployment insurance during the first week of September, an increase of about 20,000 compared to the week before that.
But home health and home care job postings might likewise be down due to financial challenges restricting agencies’ ability to hire.
“Despite health care being on the front lines of fighting coronavirus, the sector hasn’t been immune from the virus’s economic damage,” Konkel said.
Job postings have fallen most in occupations directly affected by the coronavirus and limitations on social interaction. That includes the hospitality, tourism and sports space, where postings are still more than 40% below last year’s trend, according to Hiring Lab data.
Not so fast
Hiring Lab data may show that home health and home care job posting are down on Indeed, but many home-based care employers have been vocal about their hiring plans, as maintaining strong staffing levels is crucial while caring for patients and clients during the ongoing public health emergency.
Birmingham, Alabama-based Encompass Health Corp. (NYSE: EHC), for instance, has launched a special talent-acquisition program to fill open positions.
“I would certainly agree that, at this moment, staffing is our No. 1 challenge and our No. 1 priority,” April Anthony, CEO of Encompass Health’s home health and hospice business, previously told HHCN.
Cincinnati-based Home Helpers — one of the largest home care franchise companies in the U.S. — is similarly being strategic about its hiring efforts.
“Before the pandemic, the [home care] employment market was very tight,” CEO Emma Dickison told HHCN in June. “We were in a full-employment economy. Anyone who wanted to work, could work. The industry was only limited by its ability to hire and retain good quality employees.”