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Health

Health Care Industry Nurses San Diego Economy

Patient awaiting the arrival of a baby in a hospital room, Mar. 4, 2011
George Ruiz
Patient awaiting the arrival of a baby in a hospital room, Mar. 4, 2011

Around 121,500 San Diegans are employed in the healthcare sector, which contributes $17.2 billion annually to the region's economy, according to a report released today by the National University System Institute for Policy Research.

Employment in the sector has grown steadily in recent years, including during the recession, the report says.

While the number of hospital jobs has been relatively steady, private-sector positions at doctor's offices, laboratories and other ambulatory care services grew from around 44,000 in 2003 to nearly 60,000 in 2012.

Healthcare job creation has outstripped both population growth and other sectors of the economy, which are still struggling to climb above pre- recession figures, according to the report's author, Erik Bruvold.

"Given the importance of the region's world-class healthcare services to our quality of life, it is sometimes easy to forget just how important the sector's contribution is to our economic well-being," Bruvold said.

"As the population in San Diego continues to age, it is likely that there will be even more demand for healthcare services," he said. "Given that, we believe that the sector will continue to grow and create high-paying job opportunities."

The report showed that the annual median wage for registered nurses in the first quarter of 2013 was more than $88,000.

Among other jobs, dental assistants made more than $49,000 a year, licensed practical or vocational nurses around $49,000, and medical secretaries nearly $36,000.

The healthcare industry also indirectly leads to 29,200 jobs in the county, not including construction workers toiling on several hospital projects in the region, according to Bruvold.

Between 2009 and 2013, nearly 1 million square feet of medical space was added in San Diego County, including Palomar Medical Center in Escondido and the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center in La Jolla.

Hospital and medical office construction directly and indirectly led to 8,000 jobs in the area, according to the report.

The figure doesn't include the jobs created by construction of the new base hospital at Camp Pendleton or expansion of other local military health facilities.