Hospital Expansion: USC’s new $100 million Norris Healthcare Center opened in January.

Hospital Expansion: USC’s new $100 million Norris Healthcare Center opened in January. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

By DANA BARTHOLOMEW Staff Reporter

The increased demand for health care professionals as the U.S. population ages is no secret, but a new economic study of the local market puts in sharp relief just how much of a labor shortage there might be.

The study, released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.’s Center for a Competitive Workforce, estimates Los

Angeles and Orange counties’ senior population will more than double to 31 percent by 2030 from 13.4 percent in 2016.

The boom in elderly residents will create an expected 126,000 job openings in the next three years alone, due the aging population’s increased care needs and ongoing retirements in the current workforce. The total reflects 59,000 jobs expected to be left open by retirements and 67,000 new positions.

It’s unclear whether the region has sufficient pipeline to meet the expected demand, according to Shannon Sedgwick, senior economist for the LAEDC and a co-author of the study.

“We’re trying to identify if we have a sufficient talent pipeline to meet demand,” she said.

The study, released last month, also said health care services in the region now make up 10 percent of the overall regional workforce – some 588,330 public and private payroll workers in 2016, an increase of 25 percent from a decade earlier.

Hundreds of outpatient clinics, hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities cranked out $140.9 billion in annual economic output, accounting for 9.5 percent of the gross regional product, the LAEDC report said.

Nearly 446,000 health care employees worked in Los Angeles County overall, and nearly 143,000 worked in Orange County. Health care sector employment grew in the past dozen years at an average pace of 2.5 percent a year, according to the study, while real wages grew by 4.5 percent over that time frame – ahead of the overall pace of the local economy.

The greatest job growth took place in outpatient care centers, which more than tripled to nearly 47,000 jobs, a growth rate of 252 percent,

The average health care services wage was $65,030 a year – higher than a regional worker average of $59,890 across all industries.

Training challenge

The volume of turnover –even with the relatively high pay rates – have combined with the changing nature of the work involved to present new challenges for the industry.

“It’s a sea change for how we look at the talent pipeline for these (health care) businesses,” said Lawren Markle, spokesman for the LAEDC. “There’s so much change in technology, the skills they needed yesterday no longer apply today.”

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