Healthcare sales hiring continues to steadily increase

April Job CountsThe outlook for the overall US job market is looking up – or possibly down – depending on which indicators you’re referencing. After a strong February in which employers added 268,000 new jobs, the March Employment Situation Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed employers added just 88,000 new jobs in March. Approximately one quarter of those new jobs – 23,000 – were added by the healthcare sector, but that figure is down from the 32,000 healthcare jobs added the previous month.

The overall unemployment rate remained “little changed” at 7.6%. The figure, while lower than it’s been since 2008, decreased in part due to the fact that nearly half a million unemployed Americans stopped looking for work, thus leaving the labor force completely and bringing the portion of Americans in the labor force to 65.3% –  the lowest it’s been since 1979, according to Paul Davidson at USA Today.

On a brighter note, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the BLS suggests the number of job openings is steadily rising, with a sharp increase in February to nearly 4 million. So it’s no surprise that the MedReps.com Healthcare Sales Jobs Report found that healthcare sales job openings are also increasing.

The ups and downs in the overall job market may in part be explained by uncertainties surrounding the recent government sequestration and  the increased payroll tax that took effect on January 1st. However, healthcare has some additional factors that may impact the healthcare job market, namely the ongoing implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The changes will likely create jobs in some sectors of the healthcare industry, but for medical device and pharma companies, the new taxes and fees associated with the ACA may cause them to be cautious in their plans for growth. However, the latest job numbers indicate this caution is not yet significantly impacting the number of healthcare sales jobs.

Current state of the healthcare sales job market

The MedReps.com Quarterly Healthcare Sales Jobs Report evaluates the number of healthcare sales jobs on 5 niche sites to assess the current market. In the first quarter of 2013, job counts rose on 4 of the 5 sites tracked. MedReps.com showed the greatest fluctuation in its job counts. After a predicted spike in January, followed by several ups and downs, the MedReps job count decreased 2% between January 1st and April 15th. However, it was noted in the January Jobs Report that MedReps administrators have recently taken a more active role in policing the quality of jobs on the site, which may explain these fluctuations.

The total number of jobs on all 5 sites rose  14% from December 31st through April 15th, perhaps indicating that companies have not let increased taxes and fees slow down their healthcare sales hiring. However, compared to this time last year, the total number of healthcare sales jobs posted online has increased by just 3%, suggesting that while hiring hasn’t stopped, the long term growth has been slower than the previous quarter indicates.

Pharma sales jobs showed the most dramatic first quarter growth (29%), and year-over-year growth was measured at 8%. Medical device job growth was more in line with the pace of overall healthcare sales job growth, with a 14% increase in the first quarter and 5% growth in the previous year. Biotech sales job counts continue to be somewhat erratic, with a 5% decline since the end of 2012 but a 3% increase since this time last year.

Projections for healthcare sales hiring

It’s difficult to guess what lies ahead for healthcare sales jobs. Certainly the sector has several reasons to be cautious, but it appears that companies are continuing to hire. However, the slow year-over-year growth suggests that most of these open jobs are not sales force expansions, but rather replacement hiring. Of course, growth is the ultimate goal, and companies are moving forward with strategies to expand even while coping with increased taxes, expiring patents, user fees, pricing pressures, etc.  So, while we may not see an immediate jump in healthcare sales hiring, continued steady growth seems likely.