While most industries have lost both revenues and employees during the deepest five years of the Great Recession, health care has recorded steady gains.

In fact, the healthcare sector was the nation’s largest employer in 2012 with nearly 18.6 million employees.From 2007 to 2012, nearly 1.8 million new workers joined the healthcare field – a 10 percent increase – the highest of any other sector, according to recently released economic statistics gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Healthcare employees also saw wages increase during this difficult time from an average of $39,466 in 2007 to $43,275 in 2012.

The new 2012 Economic Census Advance Report is the first comprehensive look at the U.S. economy since 2007 when the recession began.

Health care had the highest annual payroll – $804.4 billion – of any other sector measured by the Census Bureau, which includes manufacturing, retail trade, wholesale trade, food service, utilities and accommodations, among others.

During the last decade, employment in the healthcare sector has grown by more than 3.5 million employees. Between 2002 and 2012, employment in the following four healthcare areas grew by:

  • Ambulatory healthcare services, 1,649,347 employees (47 percent of total)
  • Social assistance, 743,223 employees 21 percent)
  • Hospitals, 598,114 employees (17 percent)
  • Nursing and residential care facilities, 544,528 employees 15 percent)

In terms of revenues, from 2007 to 2012 the healthcare sector grew by $383 billion, the third largest increase behind wholesale trade ($673 billion) and manufacturing ($436 billion).

The highest revenues overall were in the wholesale industry with $7.2 trillion in sales in 2012. Overall, the retail industry had the largest number of businesses, with 1.1 million establishments.

The largest growth of any industry from 2007 to 2012, by far, was in the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sector, which has exploded with growth in Texas and parts of the Great Plains. The number of businesses operating in this area grew by 26.4 percent in the five-year period.

By comparison, the number of manufacturing establishments fell during the same period by nearly 36,000 businesses, a decrease of 11 percent.