Economic report evaluates health care workforce impacts of COVID-19

The latest issue of Alaska Economic Trends evaluates the short-term economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Alaska. While the virus-related economic shutdown will have repercussions for years to come, the report evaluates changes expected in April and May.

Trends provides an overview of the various industries in the state expected to be hit hardest by COVID-19 – including retail trade, restaurants, air transportation, and real estate – as well as the few industries that will see increased demand for services.



Health care stands apart from most other industries in that in the short-term, there will likely be an increase in demand. Social assistance and nursing/residential care industries are both expected to see “slight increases.” For social assistance, the report notes that there will be big increases in food and housing needs, but that closures will cut jobs elsewhere in the industry. Nursing and residential care can expect to see disruptions to processes and new safety procedures, and the availability of workers will continue to be a concern.

Hospitals are the one industry listed in the report that will likely see a “substantial increase” in demand. The report says that in the coming months “demand for trained professionals will soar; wages will rise,” but there will be few available workers.

In April 2019, hospitals represented approximately 13,000 jobs in Alaska, or about a third of all health care employment. During that time, about 3,900 people worked in residential care or nursing facilities.

The rest of the health care workforce (21,000 jobs) were in outpatient care — an area where the report predicts statewide layoffs. These include doctors’ and dentists’ offices, home health services, physical therapists, and others.

“Those employers will be divided roughly into two categories: those on the front lines of the COVID-19 work and those who will suspend much of their activity (elective or nonemergency surgeries, for example) to slow its spread,” reads the report.


Image: Alaska Economic Trends


Outpatient care facility workers who have suspended much of their activity may be able to step in to meet the elevated workforce demands at hospitals and nursing facilities. Other staffing shortages can be filled by care providers who are licensed but are retired or otherwise not working, reads the report.

Future issues of Alaska Economic Trends will focus on the medium-term (June-Dec) and long-term (2021 and beyond) economic impacts of COVID-19.