As Houston’s economy continues to recover from the oil and gas downturn, the health care job market in the Greater Houston area—including Pearland—has proven to be resilient as the area population and demand for services continue to rise.
In December 2015, the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual employment forecast predicted around 9,000 health care jobs would be added during 2016, said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at GHP.
“So far [from January to August], we created 7,200 jobs [in the health care industry], so the numbers seem to be on track,” he said.
Job market shift
The health care industry is a major driver of the Pearland economy. Pearland has attracted employers like Memorial Hermann Hospital, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, Hospital Corporation of America and Houston Methodist.
Four of the top 16 major area employers are in health care and life science, according to the Pearland Economic Development Corporation. And the city nabbed another major employer, the Switzerland-based biotech company Lonza, which will open its sprawling campus in Pearland’s Lower Kirby District in 2017.
“We’ve had a concerted effort for many years to try and recruit life science-, health- and medical-related companies to the community because of our citizens. Many of them work in education, research and health care. It makes sense,” said Matt Buchanan, president of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation.
The University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business reports the region lost nearly 25,000 oil production and services jobs and over 29,000 manufacturing jobs from December 2014 to July 2016.
Hospital officials say these losses could explain why many workers are now moving to work in the health care industry.
“Memorial Hermann is seeing more and more people seeking employment in health care,” said Tanya Cook, vice president of talent acquisition and premier staffing for Memorial Hermann Health System. “That’s due largely to the downturn in oil and energy business. While our primary need is for health care clinicians, we are always looking for talented people for nonclinical jobs such as accounting and finance, and information and technology.”
Nearly 1 in 9 employees in the Greater Houston area now works in the health care industry, and the sector has added nearly 50,000 jobs in the past five years according to the GHP.
Jankowski said two factors most contribute to the growth in health care jobs: the natural population increase from babies born in the area and an aging population. He said about 30,000 residents in the Houston area turn 65 years old each year.
“If you think about how Houston’s [metro] population has grown over the last 30 years, our population has doubled over the last 30 years,” he said. “There’s another factor in health care: People talk about baby boomers. One of the times you need health care is when you get older. “
Expanding to the suburbs
Although the Texas Medical Center has the largest concentration of health care workers in Houston, hospital systems are looking outside Loop 610 for new facility locations, Jankowski said.
“You’ve seen with health care—whether it’s the hospitals or urgent care centers or patient care centers—migrating to the suburbs. That comes from good business sense,” he said. “They’re trying to put their facilities as close to people as possible.”
Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital opened earlier this year, following the population boom in Pearland and north Brazoria County.
The land was purchased in 2003, but construction didn’t begin until about a decade later when the hospital system opened its convenient care center, which provides primary and specialty physician services and a 24-hour emergency room, in 2014. The convenience care center was the first of a larger hospital center; construction of the 64-bed Pearland hospital was completed in March.
“Pearland is one of the fastest-growing communities in the Houston metroplex, so with the opening of our convenient care center in 2014 and the success there, it highlighted the need for high quality care in the area,” said Mario Garner, senior vice president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital.
While Pearland is developing its roster of health care and life science employers within the community, the city is strongly linked to the health care industry in Houston. Pearland serves as the most densely populated area for Texas Medical Center employees living in the Greater Houston area. Between 4,000 and 5,000 employees resided in the 77584 ZIP code, which comprises the Shadow Creek Ranch area and parts of west Pearland, according to the most recent 2012 Texas Medical Center employee density map.
With Memorial Hermann’s presence in Pearland, many of those employees who commuted to the Texas Medical Center are now working close to home.
“The majority of our staff live here in Pearland, so we’re very excited about that. We’re neighbors taking care of neighbors,” Garner said.
“The data the Census Bureau released … showed Houston had just shy of 100,000 babies born [in 2016],” Jankowski said. “If you subtract the deaths from the births, you get what’s called the ‘natural increase’ of 65,000.”
Factored into the net population growth of 10.9 percent and 10.6 percent in the past five years for Harris and Brazoria counties, respectively, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the area will continue need more health care services to keep up with demand.
“As long as mankind is around, health care will be a strong field,” Jankowski said.
Memorial Hermann in Pearland was constructed with future demand in mind. The hospital has the ability to double capacity, going from 64 beds to 128 beds, Garner said. The hospital also has additional shell space to build out more operating rooms and cardiac catheterization laboratories.
“Our hospital is built to meet the needs of the community as it grows,” Garner said. “Our intent is to grow into those spaces, and we can do that in a way that reduces noise and promotes a healing environment for our patients.”
A projected expansion date was not available.
Local higher education providers are expanding their health care education offerings to prepare more students for the workforce.
The University of Houston Clear Lake-Pearland, which opened in 2010, is expanding its campus.
After receiving a large parcel of donated land from the city of Pearland in June, the university announced plans to construct a 52,000-square-foot Health Sciences and Classroom building.
The new building is expected to support demand for the campus’ Bachelor of Science in nursing degree.
A satellite children’s autism treatment center is also being considered.