If you’re out of work and considering a career change, think about medicine. Last week, Statistics Canada revealed that in the midst of rising unemployment, there is one bright spot: the number of health care and social assistance jobs rose 5.1 per cent in 2008—the fastest growth seen in any industry over the past year.
Employment in nursing, residential care facilities and hospitals “bucked the trend,” reported StatsCan in its labour force survey, with the number of jobs swelling to 1,970,300, up 31,000. Even health professionals are surprised: “We don’t know if this is just a blip or if it’s going to continue to rise,” says Kaaren Neufeld, president of the Canadian Nurses Association. But “it [represents] the possibility of an encouraging trend.” What’s more, the average hourly wage of health employees rose six per cent over the past year to $25.55. Neufeld says nurses have been in demand, and that as the population ages, “we’re going to need even more.”
Still, Neufeld notes that hospitals have laid off workers recently to protect their budgets during the downturn. And the union representing Ontario hospital employees predicts 5,000 job cuts if funding isn’t increased. Doug Allan of the Canadian Union of Public Employees says he is confused by the reported job gains. While there may not be much growth in unionized nurses working in the public sector, he suggests that the number of private clinic employees may be adding up.
A 2004 StatsCan report seems to bear that out. It found that between 1987 and 2003, the number of nurse aides and orderlies more than doubled, while the number of regulated nurses rose by less than 17 per cent. But whatever the reason for the growth, health care appears to be a good bet. “We’d encourage people to look at nursing as a career that has a lot to offer,” says Neufeld. Like jobs.