The MedZilla Report: New Jobs in Health Care, Drop in Pharma Layoffs Appear to Signal Recovery

April 13, 2011

Despite little change in the U.S. unemployment rate, March was a good month to be on the job market, at least in certain parts of the country. Only one health care or pharmaceutical company announced a major layoff while several states saw jumps in job postings and applicant searches. Additionally, planned firings across all industries were down 18 percent, according to outplacement research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas -- with only 960 planned by pharmaceutical companies. In fact, the firm said that pharmaceutical layoffs have dropped by 87 percent since 2010.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in March, the unemployment rate backed down by 0.1 percent, to 8.8, and that health care added another 37,000 jobs -- the most so far this year. "Compared to just a year or so ago, health care companies are firing fewer and hiring more," said John Burkhardt, Managing Director of, the internet's most established source for employers and professionals in health care, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology. "And, as we said last month, the types of jobs are changing, which allows for people not traditionally in health care roles to join that growing industry."

The word about health care information technology in particular is spreading quickly, from small community colleges like one in Gainesville, Fla. (, 3/18/11) to the White House's Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, who said that health care IT was specifically referenced when President Obama appointed him to his position (, 3/29/11). While the change is still being made, some physicians are already using cutting-edge technology such as the iPad, despite concerns over Apple's walled garden of apps (, 3/23/11).

Although only one major layoff was announced in March -- Novartis A.G. plans to cut 500 jobs in the U.K. (, 3/16/11) -- the subject of government health care job cuts remained forefront in Great Britain. New findings by a British research group revealed that the National Health Service cuts originally projected to affect 4,600 people may actually put more than 18,000 health care employees -- including doctors and nurses -- out of work (, 3/20/11).

Despite positive news in the U.S., MedZilla reported that, in March, job seekers continued looking for new employment at the same rate as in February. That may be due to the relatively negligible change in new job postings; with the exception of Texas companies, who increased their postings by almost six percent, job seekers did not have a lot of new places to apply. "The real change in March was in active candidate searches made by companies," said Del Johnston, MedZilla's Manager of Client Relations. "We saw significant upward shifts in several states, the biggest being Massachusetts, where companies increased their search activities by five-and-a-half percent." Other states with increases included North Carolina at five percent and Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Ohio between two and three. Some states did see companies backing off candidate searches, though, such as Maryland and California, which were both down just over 2.5 percent.

Even with the new jobs being created, health care -- like other fields -- needs to be carefully considered before a potential employee accepts a job. "It seems like every day there's another article published about health care job seminars or how great a field it is to get into," Johnston said. "But what job-seekers have to remember is that just because it's a hot field to get into doesn't mean it's the right one." In fact, a recent study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine said that a bad job -- one where the employee is not happy, or is not well-supported by management and the company -- may actually be more detrimental to mental health than being unemployed (, 3/16/11). "That's another benefit of networking -- knowing the story behind the story. When you go on an interview, you get a chance to meet people and look around the office, but the company knows they're being interviewed, just like you. The opportunity to talk to someone on the ground, to find out what it's really like, is often invaluable when weighing the intangibles between similar job offers."