October 7, 2021, Ben Swett, The SeniorCare Investor - According to most recent aggregated NIC data, occupancy in the third quarter rose to 80.1%, after having stagnated in the previous two quarters at 78.7%. It’s great to see this positive movement, but we are still a long way away from pre-pandemic occupancy levels, and we would have hoped to see more growth heading into the holiday and flu season. This average is also not an indicator of how other institutional operators and REITs are performing, or the industry as a whole, but there are just no other comprehensive sector-wide statistics out there.
As we reported last month, Sabra Health Care REIT, Inc. disclosed a 716-basis point increase in occupancy between February and July 2021. Senior Living Communities, Bickford Senior Living and Holiday Retirement all reported 310, 470 and 20-basis point increases, respectively, between January and August 2021. So while the industry average remained stagnant, the big players reported significant gains, and we hope other, smaller players saw similar results.
NIC also reported sector-specific occupancy figures, including the pandemic-lows (all of which occurred during the first quarter of 2021), where pre-pandemic levels were, and the most recent averages from the third quarter of 2021. Assisted living occupancy increased to 76.9% during Q3 from its pandemic low of 75.4%, but still sits below pre-pandemic occupancy of 85%. Independent living jumped to 83.2% last quarter from its pandemic low of 81.8%, still far back from its pre-pandemic level of 89.7%. And finally, skilled nursing occupancy climbed to 76.3% from its pandemic low of 74.1%, but rests far below its pre-pandemic occupancy of 86.6%.
According to these numbers, the road to recovery looks slow, not helped by the Delta variant. But, positive movement is promising. While there is still a long road ahead to achieve even close to the levels we saw pre-pandemic (which weren’t steller anyway), each sector appears to be slowly creeping up toward “normal” levels again.