pulling back the labels on health care and social assistance employment

I recently wrote about health care and social assistance (HCSA) as the one consistent source of job growth in Colorado since the start of the Great Recession. Someone asked me about why social assistance gets lumped in with health care. I’ll first turn to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as to “why” and then show some data that provides a closer look at this sector’s job performance over the past 5 years.

According to the BLS:

“The Health Care and Social Assistance sector comprises establishments providing health care and social assistance for individuals. The sector includes both health care and social assistance because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the boundaries of these two activities. The industries in this sector are arranged on a continuum starting with those establishments providing medical care exclusively, continuing with those providing health care and social assistance, and finally finishing with those providing only social assistance. The services provided by establishments in this sector are delivered by trained professionals. All industries in the sector share this commonality of process, namely, labor inputs of health practitioners or social workers with the requisite expertise. Many of the industries in the sector are defined based on the educational degree held by the practitioners included in the industry.”

So, we have a “health care” component that provides what we traditionally think of as medical care (think doctors, dentists and hospitals), and a social assistance sector that provide a variety of other individual services, such as youth services, temporary shelter and child care (see here for more details of each major sector shown in the following chart, which shows the components of HCSA growth between the 3rd quarters of 2001 and 2011).


Over the 5 year time period Colorado added 44,500 HCSA jobs. Ambulatory health care services accounted for more than 19,400 of the jobs, while more than 11,700 were created in hospitals.

Within social assistance, about 3/4 of the 8,400 jobs were created in “Services for the elderly and disabled” (NAICS 62412). What this means is that Colorado’s population, like the rest of the nation, is aging and living longer.



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