Senior Living Employees Working Longer Hours, Earning Higher Wages

In response to the industry’s ever-persistent recruiting and retention issues, senior living providers are increasing caregivers’ work hours, according to Argentum’s Senior Living Labor & Workforce Trends: 2018 Forecast.

Citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Alexandria, Virginia-based national senior living industry trade organization found that the average hours worked by senior living employees increased at an annual rate of 4% during the first half of 2017.

Coupled with an overall shallow labor pool, these increased work hours portend even more labor challenges for the industry in 2018, according to the organization.

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Work more, pay more

Among sectors in the senior living industry, growth in employee hours proved strongest at assisted living communities, where the average workweek of caregivers increased 6.7% during the first six months of 2017.

Meanwhile, the average workweek of employees at continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) jumped 1.8% through the first half of 2017.

By comparison, the average hourly workweek of all private sector employees saw a small bump of 0.1% during the first half of 2017.

Overall, employment at assisted living communities rose by just 1.1% during the first six months of 2017.

In light of these trends, the total number of labor hours in the senior living industry is growing “much faster” than the overall private sector, the report says.

As a result of these increased work hours, senior living employers are increasing employee wages, according to the report.

Data cited from the BLS shows that the average hourly earnings of senior living employees increased at annual rate of 2.9% during the first half of 2017. The average hourly earnings of all private sector employees, meanwhile, saw a 2.7% increase during the same time period.

Assisted living employees also saw more dough in their pockets in 2017, as their average hourly earnings increased at a 3.9% annual rate during the first six months of the year. CCRC employees saw wages increase by a 2.4% rate during this same time frame.

2018 forecast

While the industry continues to grapple with staffing concerns, one silver lining the report illustrates is that the overall turnover rate in the health care and social assistance sector has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, standing at 31.6% in 2016, compared to 31.3% in 2015.

This compares favorably to the average turnover rate for all U.S. industries, which was 41.9% in 2016.

Despite this, the senior living industry may still face staffing headwinds in the new year, according to Argentum.

The senior living industry workforce is expected to grow at a “modest” 1.5% rate in 2018. This figure represents a fairly slow job growth for the industry, which added jobs at a 2.9% average annual rate between 1990 to 2016, the report says.

“The senior living industry will continue to face stiff competition for foodservice and hospitality employees, as those industries will remain among the fastest growing in the economy in 2018,” the report says.

As such, senior living communities can expect to see increased labor costs in 2018 as a result of competition for employees, Argentum explained.

However, senior living employees can expect to rake in increased wages, as their average hourly earnings is projected to increase 3.2% in 2018.

Written by Carlo Calma

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