A new study conducted by the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington indicates Indiana’s health sector tends to not only remain stable during an economic downturn, but often grows employment levels. Researchers examined the historic relationship between local economic conditions and healthcare employment during past recessions.

Professor Kosali Simon, who is co-author of the study, says Indiana’s healthcare industry is particularly stable with respect to economic turmoil. Simon discovered when counties experience more severe economic downturns, healthcare employment seems to increase.

“Understanding how the healthcare sector responds to economic conditions is important for policymakers seeking to ensure an adequate supply of healthcare workers, as well as for those directing displaced workers into new jobs,” said Simon. “Our study provides a backdrop for studying the economic impact COVID-19 is having on this sector compared to economic downturns of the past.”

The study examined hiring practices from 2005-2017 and focused on four subsets: nursing care facilities, home health care services, office of physicians, and general medical and surgical hospitals.

Simon says the state of the local economy does not seem to have a strong effect on the share of the workforce employed by hospitals and physicians’ offices. However, the study found nursing care facilities grow their workforce more robustly when both the local and national economies are in a downturn.

“Even during the Great Recession, which saw employment fall in most sectors, employment in healthcare held steady and grew as a share of all employment,” Simon said. “This suggests that the healthcare workforce is systematically different than the U.S. workforce taken as a whole but experience from the Great Recession does not necessarily generalize to the most recent recession.”

Simon says the findings can help provide a backdrop as policymakers consider ways to sustain the healthcare sector during future economic and public health turbulence.

Click here to view the working research paper.