As an extremely difficult year came to a close, the health care industry remained a bright spot in terms of employment growth. But that was offset by a rough ride for pharmaceuticals, which shed more than 60,000 jobs in 2009. If the actions of the larger pharmaceutical companies going into 2010 are any indication, the trouble isn't over just yet.
(Vocus) January 21, 2010 -- As one of the most difficult economic years in the past two decades came to a close, the health care industry remained one bright spot, adding another 22,000 jobs in December 2009, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, the overall unemployment rate in the U.S. remained steady at 10 percent. However, December was a difficult month for the pharmaceutical industry, closing out a difficult year that saw the elimination of more than 60,000 pharmaceutical company jobs, according to outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Pharmaceutical company layoffs dominated that industry's news feeds in December, including many reports of job losses in the northeastern U.S. Smaller companies did announce layoffs in December -- such as Forest Labs, which was forced to let 84 workers go (newsday.com, 12/2/09) -- but the bigger names dominated the news as the year ended. Pfizer announced plans to cut 680 jobs in Pennsylvania, mostly from campuses acquired in their purchase of Wyeth (philly.com, 1/9/10), and further noted that they would have to eliminate a total of 20,000 jobs following the Wyeth purchase. Pfizer also received more bad news in December, announcing that they were halting a trial of a new lung cancer medication, due to its ineffectiveness in extending the lives of patients. This particular drug is part of about 25 currently in testing for treatment of cancer (dailyfinance.com, 12/30/09). Pfizer, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson together have announced cuts of more than 40,000 in 2009. Another merger, that of Merck with Schering-Plough, is said to be hitting sales representatives particularly hard (nj.com, 1/7/10).
"Part of the problem for the pharmaceutical industry is that all spending, including healthcare, was down in 2009," said Dr. Frank Heasley, president and CEO of MedZilla.com, the internet's key source for pharmaceutical and health care job postings and information. The information came from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "Drugs are expensive, and becoming more so, and with the economy still down and unemployment what it is, sales reps can make twice as many doctor visits, but if there's a cheaper alternative, people are going to use it simply because it costs less." Dr. Heasley also noted that insurers are attempting to save money themselves by being restrictive about the use of generic over brand-name medications.
Another concern for the pharmaceutical industry is what will happen when the health care reform bill passes. PhRMA has worked to support the industry's interests over the past few months, and recently told the Wall Street Journal that the net impact was likely to be marginal, no more than two percent in either direction (12/24/09).
But even as the pharmaceutical industry faces more difficult months ahead while the economy begins to rebuild, the health care industry has continued to grow. Of the 22,000 jobs added in December, 9,000 were in physicians' offices and 8,000 were in home health care, a subgroup of the industry projected to expand greatly in the next ten years, owing mostly to people living longer and needing in-home assistance.
In tracking job postings on a state-by-state level, MedZilla found that Massachusetts companies announced the most openings in December, increasing 3.2 percent from the previous month. Only New Jersey, formerly home to Wyeth, significantly cut their job posting – a 1.9 percent drop. Research job postings fell the most in December – more than five percent – while several categories of physicians and support staff rose by more than one percent each. The real boom, though, was in searches undertaken by companies in their efforts to find new associates; eight states, as well as Ontario, Canada, reported significant increases – Michigan and Florida each jumped almost nine percent – while only North Carolina and New Jersey cut their search efforts by more than two percent. Most of the candidates being sought were physicians, technicians, researchers, and nurses.
"Despite activity on the company level, there wasn't much change in the number of individuals seeking new jobs," Dr. Heasley said. "This could mean that laid-off pharmaceutical workers have taken jobs in other industries for a time, or that the candidate pool has reached a sort of 'equilibrium', where everyone in a position to be searching is already doing so." He recommended that anyone looking to rejoin the pharmaceutical industry spend more time networking than simply firing off resumes, scattershot-fashion. "The odds of being hired for an increasingly-small number of jobs are much better if someone doing the hiring knows you. Now is the time to join professional associations, check in with acquaintances, and have lunch with friends and colleagues from other companies. It's better to lay the groundwork and not need it than to not have it and suddenly find yourself out of a job."
Established in mid-1994, MedZilla is the original and leading web site to serve career and hiring needs for professionals and employers in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, science and healthcare. The MedZilla jobs database contains about 7,500 open positions. The resume database currently contains over 285,000 resumes with 16,800 less than three months old. These resources have been characterized as the largest, most comprehensive databases of their kind on the web in the industries served.
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