August 6, 2014 | By Varun Saxena
Med tech companies are keen employers, according to an employment report released today by EP Vantage, which found that 12 of the 15 biggest device companies added to their head count in 2013. And Abbott ($ABT) and Covidien ($COV) would have been net hirers were it not for the divestment of their pharma arms that year–resulting in the transfer of jobs to other companies, leaving Boston Scientific ($BSX) as the only large company to truly eliminate jobs last year.
The 10 leading hirers of new employees added almost 25,000 jobs in 2013. Baxter ($BAX) led the way with 10,000 people added to its headcount, which stood at 61,000 at year end; followed by Essilor International with 4,441 new additions (head count: 55,129); Medtronic ($MDT) with 3,000 additions (head count: 49,000); and Stryker ($SYK) with 2,990 (head count: 25,000).
Over 5 years the top 10 hirers added more than 80,000 jobs, led by Essilor International with 20,809 additions; Carl Zeiss and Medtronic each added more than 10,000 employees over that time period. In contrast the top 10 firers of the past 5 years cut slightly more than 10,000 jobs, led by Covidien (3,200 jobs cut), Teleflex ($TFX) (2,800 cuts) and Boston Scientific (1,800 cuts).
Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is the largest med tech employer with 128,100 employees at the end of 2013, almost twice as many as slimmed-down Abbott’s 69,000. But a good portion of those J&J employees work for its pharma unit. However, as noted in the report, the trend toward divesting or separating pharma-related and device units will make that discrepancy easier to sort out in the future. Baxter plans on spinning off its biotechnology and vaccines businesses in 2015.
“There were a few eye-catching acquisitions and divestments in 2013, but overall, medtech companies increased their headcount slowly and steadily,” said the report’s author, Elizabeth Cairns, in a statement. “The trend towards pharma spinouts means large medtech is getting purer. And with several megamergers underway, we can expect to see much more drastic changes in devicemakers’ headcounts in the coming years.”
Indeed the news of 2014 (which isn’t covered in the employment report) isn’t device companies slimming down, it’s companies fattening up through megamergers like Medtronic/Covidien and Zimmer ($ZMH)/Biomet. Both Medtronic and Zimmer have taken steps to ensure nervous employees (and politicians) that their acquisitions won’t result in layoffs, but we’ll have to wait until the 2014 employment report to find out for sure.