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Major US Healthcare Labor Shortages Projected in Every State by 2026, Mental Health Professionals Grow in High Demand, Mercer Report Shows

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Even before COVID-19, the US healthcare labor market faced remarkable challenges with the demand for healthcare professionals outpacing supply. As the US continues to grapple with the pandemic, those healthcare professionals will get stretched further. Mercer’s “2021 External Healthcare Labor Market Analysis” released today identifies four key trends impacting the US healthcare labor market over the next five and ten years, and reveals how the healthcare industry needs to adapt to address future labor shortages.

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“The healthcare workforce is burned-out following a nearly two-year face-off against COVID-19. The demands placed on healthcare workers since the start of the pandemic have been unrelenting and overall, this data shows that there will not be enough healthcare workers to fill demand in the near future,” said John Derse, Healthcare Industry Leader, Mercer. “This impact will be felt by all of us, regardless of where we live or our field of work.”

The exact deficit depends on the specific role and geography, but a few common themes emerge: the US is losing healthcare professionals to burnout and at a rate faster than expected, a significant portion of physicians plan to retire, and there will be a sharp increase in demand for mental health professionals and low-wage healthcare workers in the near term. Every state is different, and every healthcare system should assess how anticipated projections to their external labor markets will ultimately affect workforce strategies and patient outcomes in the coming years.

1. There will be a shortage of healthcare workers at the low-end of the wage spectrum, which will directly impact access to home care

About 9.7M individuals currently work in critical, albeit lower-wage, healthcare occupations (e.g., medical assistants, home health aides, nursing assistants, etc.). The need for these workers is likely to grow in the coming years, as the aging population will increase demand for healthcare workers while healthcare labor is permanently leaving these occupations. In fact, Mercer’s research shows more than 6.5M individuals will permanently leave this critical workforce in the near future. The result – a substantial shortage of workers in the next five years. New York and California will have the largest labor shortages of this workforce, each projected to fall short by over 500,000 workers by 2026. Only a few states in the country are projected to have surplus labor in low-wage healthcare workers, including Washington, Georgia and South Carolina.

2. Primary care will increasingly be provided by non-physicians

The primary care landscape and how primary care services are delivered is anticipated to change over the next five years as 21% of family medicine, pediatric and OB/GYN, and other primary care physicians will move into retirement age. Yet, demand for primary care physicians will grow by over 4% during the same time period. The result will be a shift towards primary care being provided by physicians’ assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs).

3. There will be significant shortages of nurses in over half of US states, but surplus in some areas of the South and Southwest

Just over 3M individuals work as registered nurses in the US and demand for these professionals will grow by at least 5% over the next five years. With nearly 1M workers expected to permanently leave the profession, over half of US states will not be able to fill demand for nursing talent. The largest projected shortages of nursing talent will be in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado, Illinois, and Massachusetts. However, in the South and Southwest, new entrants into the local nursing workforce are likely to outpace local demand due to new graduates and historical migration patterns. States like Georgia, Texas and South Carolina may start to build a surplus of registered nurses in the workforce.

4. A hiring rush for mental health providers will emerge by 2026

There will be a 10% increase in demand for mental health workers by 2026. During this time, 400,000 are anticipated to leave the occupation entirely, resulting in twenty-seven states that will be unable to meet hiring demands for skilled and semi-skilled mental health workers. While Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, California, and Colorado are expected to have the largest shortages of these professionals, Washington, Texas, Ohio, Florida, and Georgia will each build surplus due to a steady flow of new entrants and that individuals in these regions are leaving mental health occupations at a slower rate than in other states.

“While hospitals and healthcare systems cannot control what’s happening in the external labor market, effective workforce planning and managing internal workforces can help mitigate their exposure to these risks. Workforce strategies that will position an employer for long-term success should focus on transforming care models, rethink compensation and benefits, and introduce more flexibility into staffing, development and rewards,” added Derse. “Prior to the pandemic, the shortages were driven by a healthcare population that was trending older, sicker and more sedentary. Employers should not wait to transform their retention models to accommodate for all demographics in their workforce impacted by the pandemic, particularly ageing skilled professionals considering early retirement.”

Click here to see an interactive map of US healthcare labor projections over five years across six types of healthcare providers.

About the 2021 External Healthcare Labor Market Analysis

Based on Mercer research, publicly available data, and data provided by Emsi, the 2021 External Healthcare Labor Market Analysis examined the changing healthcare labor markets of the next five to ten years in all 50 states at the country, state, regional and national levels. The interactive map here features a small subset of the healthcare workforce at a broad geographic level and insights from Mercer and other Marsh McLennan businesses on the proprietary database of over 80 healthcare roles, projected over 10 years at the county and metropolitan statistical area level. If you’d like to learn more, click here.

About Mercer

Mercer believes in building brighter futures by redefining the world of work, reshaping retirement and investment outcomes, and unlocking real health and well-being. Mercer’s approximately 25,000 employees are based in 43 countries and the firm operates in 130 countries. Mercer is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people, with 78,000 colleagues and annual revenue of over $18 billion. Through its market-leading businesses including Marsh, Guy Carpenter and Oliver Wyman, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment. For more information, visit mercer.com. Follow Mercer on LinkedIn and Twitter.

About Marsh McLennan

Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC) is the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. The Company’s 78,000 colleagues advise clients in 130 countries. With annual revenue over $18 billion, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment through four market-leading businesses. Marsh provides data-driven risk advisory services and insurance solutions to commercial and consumer clients. Guy Carpenter develops advanced risk, reinsurance and capital strategies that help clients grow profitably and pursue emerging opportunities. Mercer delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organizations redefine the world of work, reshape retirement and investment outcomes, and unlock health and well being for a changing workforce. Oliver Wyman serves as a critical strategic, economic and brand advisor to private sector and governmental clients. For more information, visit mmc.com, follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter or subscribe to BRINK.


Micaela McPadden


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The Squeezed Middle: Millennial Managers Worse-off While Supporting a Burnt-out Workforce

New MetLife study finds heightened imperative for employers to better support their people managers and improve their well-being

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#employeebenefits–As U.S. employers reimagine the workplace due to the significant impacts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, managers – and particularly Millennial managers – have taken on the challenge of supporting employees’ well-being even when it diminishes their own.


A new MetLife study finds Millennial managers, ages 26-40, are significantly more likely to say they are burned out (42 percent) than managers of any other generation (34 percent Gen Z, 27 percent Gen X, and 21 percent Boomers) and individual contributors (30 percent).

One driver could be the degree to which Millennial managers are stepping up to support their employees’ well-being. According to MetLife’s study, 52 percent of employees with supportive Millennial managers say they are healthy across all four pillars of physical, financial, social, and mental health, versus just 18 percent of those who say their managers aren’t supportive.

“The pandemic has changed the way we work – from the way we do our jobs to how we interact with one another – and managers have been tasked with navigating this for their employees,” said Missy Plohr-Memming, senior vice president, Group Benefits, MetLife. “As the largest generation in the workforce today, Millennials – and particularly those in management roles – have a significant impact on their organization’s ability to succeed in the new normal.”

Millennial managers foster strong employee performance but sacrifice their own well-being

Manager support is surely important to an organization: the study finds a significant difference between those with and without supportive managers. For example, employees with supportive managers of any generation are notably more likely to feel productive (+46 percent), successful (+82 percent), engaged (+81 percent), and motivated (+110 percent) than those who lack managerial support. This is especially pivotal for employees with Millennial managers who report higher increases compared to those with managers from other generations in feeling productive (+58 percent), successful (+129 percent), engaged (+120 percent) and motivated (+140 percent) when they have a supportive versus a non-supportive manager.

While organizations reap the benefits of strong manager support in general and Millennial manager support in particular through greater employee productivity and engagement, the Millennial managers themselves are feeling a squeeze. In fact, Millennial managers now feel more overwhelmed, burnt out, and stressed while working compared to December 2020.

Training and benefits are critical to Millennial managers’ well-being now and into the future

As younger generations continue to move into management roles within the workforce, employers should consider offering training and tools for these leaders, including Millennial managers who are already taking on the greater responsibility of ensuring the well-being of their teams – while also managing their own – now and into the future.

In fact, Millennial managers and executives are more likely than other generations to want training and support in a number of key areas affecting the workforce today, including people management (82 percent); managing personal stress (78 percent); conducting conversations around sensitive topics such as diversity and inclusion (D&I) and social justice (74 percent); and management of hybrid remote/onsite teams (74 percent).

Furthermore, MetLife’s study shows that Millennial managers who say their employer offers a range of benefits that meet their personal and household needs are significantly more likely to report being holistically healthy (54 percent vs. 30 percent) and resilient (70 percent vs. 46 percent).

As for the specific benefits they are interested in, Millennial managers are significantly more likely now to describe financial planning tools (+40 percent), pet insurance (+58 percent), and legal services (+50 percent) as “must haves” compared to pre-pandemic.

“The effects of the pandemic have caused many employers to adjust their workplace policies and benefit programs in real-time, and this will only continue. As we reimagine the workforce of the future, employers must consider the varying needs of their managers, and what tools they may need for long-term success,” said Plohr-Memming. “Millennials, who will make up the majority of our future management, are eager for these skills and benefits for themselves and their teams.”

Research Methodology

MetLife’s 19th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Manager Study was conducted in June 2021 and July 2021. The study was fielded by Rainmakers CSI – an international strategy, insight and planning consultancy. The survey consists of 2,652 interviews with full-time employees, ages 21 and over, at companies with at least two employees.

About Rainmakers CSI

Rainmakers CSI is a UK-based global strategy, insight and planning consultancy with a focus on delivering game-changing commercial impact. Since our inception in 2007, we’ve worked collaboratively with leading companies to help define opportunities for brands, categories and businesses. Our expertise spans not only Financial Services, but also Food and Drink, Beauty, Healthcare, Telecoms, Technology, Entertainment, and Travel. Our programs and client relationships span all continents, with 50 percent of our work originating in the US. For more information, visit www.rainmakerscsi.com.

About MetLife

MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates (“MetLife”), is one of the world’s leading financial services companies, providing insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to help its individual and institutional customers navigate their changing world. Founded in 1868, MetLife has operations in more than 40 markets and holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com.



Natalie Geisler