Low Unemployment Forcing Higher Senior Living Wages in 2019

The senior living industry workforce will continue to expand in 2019, albeit at a slower pace compared to recent years. Meanwhile, wages will go up as unemployment remains low across the country, according to Argentum’s 2019 Forecast Report: Workforce Trends.

Employment in the senior living industry increased 2% through June 2018, compared to 1.9% job growth in the overall private sector, the Alexandria, Virginia-based national senior living trade organization found, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

However, that number represents a slowdown compared to the 3.3% average industry job growth from 2009 through 2017.

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Wage growth Bureau of Labor Statistics/Argentum
This graph shows how senior living industry wage growth has risen, compared to the overall private sector.

The slow job growth was even more pronounced in assisted living, which increased by only 1.5% through last June. This continued a five-year downward trend of slowing job growth in assisted living communities and was the smallest annual increase since 2004.

Wage growth continues to accelerate

The growing economy, tight labor market and demand for senior living services, meanwhile, will put added pressure on industry wage growth.

The average hourly earnings of senior living employees increased at a 3.7% pace last year, the fifth consecutive year of accelerating wage growth and a percentage point higher than the private sector overall.

Hourly wage growth was not uniform across all care acuities, however.

Employees at continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) saw their wages increase 3.9%, continuing a strong five-year climb. Assisted living employees, however, saw their wages rise by only 3.4%. While this continues a four-year growth trend, the rate of growth slowed considerably, compared to 2016 and 2017.

Senior living job growtn Bureau of Labor Statistics/Argentum
The senior living industry saw strong job growth across the county over the past 10 years.

The industry also experienced broad-based job growth across the country, adding jobs everywhere except West Virginia and the District of Columbia in the past decade. The mountain region of Montana, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Wyoming, had the strongest growth at 63%.

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More of the same in 2019

The slower pace of growth is expected to continue in 2019. Low unemployment is expected to be the primary driver in that decelerated growth.

Nine states boasted unemployment rates below 3% as of mid-2018, and more states are expected to cross the sub-3% threshold this year.

This will lead to greater competition for a smaller pool of available workers, putting further upward pressure on wages. Unfilled job openings are expected to reach record highs this year as employers will be forced to raise wages to attract talent.

Argentum is predicting senior living industry job growth to slow further in 2019, to 1.8%. The average hourly wage, meanwhile, is expected to grow by 4%, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth and nearly four times stronger than the 1.1% gain posted in 2013.

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