Despite the headwinds created by the Omicron surge and the consequential staffing crisis, senior housing stabilized occupancy for the NIC MAP® Primary Markets held its ground in February 2022. This was also the case in September 2021 when occupancy withstood the Delta surge and was unchanged from August 2021.
As the pandemic eases and occupancy recovery in senior housing progresses, rising operating expenses may limit the degree to which operating margins will grow in the next six months. In the Wave 38 survey, three-quarters of respondents expect margins to increase; the majority anticipate the increase will be between 1% and 5%. Nearly three-quarters of respondents are optimistic that labor and staffing challenges will begin to ease in the second half of 2022 or 2023. Currently, all respondents are paying staff overtime hours and four out of five rely on agency or temp staff to fill in the gaps. About one-half do not expect their reliance on agency or temp staff to change in 2022; however, 40% anticipate it will decrease.
The Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 678,000 in February 2022. This was stronger than market expectations of an increase of 423,000 and occurred despite the impact of omicron on the economy. Revisions added 92,000 to total payrolls in the previous two months. Nevertheless, nonfarm payrolls were still down by 2.1 million or 1.4% from their pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
Omicron within skilled nursing facilities accounted for about seven percent of U.S. fatalities, higher than the Delta but far below the Fall 2020 spike. While COVID-19 cases in the country and within skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) were very high during the Omicron surge in January 2022, data shows that fatalities among SNF residents remained significantly below the fall 2020 spike prior to the vaccine rollout.