Healthcare has had a tremendous year for job growth. Last year was strong, too, and so was 2015.

How good has it been? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were about 11.7 million healthcare jobs in the U.S. in May 2014. Within two years, that number had jumped to 12.4 million through May 2016.

Well, for those in healthcare looking for new opportunities and those who hope to join the sector in the near term, there's likely going to be plenty of opportunities ahead.

According to a new report by the BLS, healthcare will continue to drive the nation's employment growth for a good long time to come — at least through 2026. The number of new jobs the industry expects to add could be as high as 4 million, accounting for about a third of total U.S. job growth.

In the report, the fastest-growing sectors across all industries include healthcare support occupations (23.2 percent increase from 2016 through 2026) and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations (15.2 percent), including home health aides, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, among others. These two occupational groups — which make up 14 of the 30 fastest-growing occupations across all industries from 2016 to 2026 — are projected to contribute about one-fifth of all new jobs by 2026.

As previously stated, the healthcare industry is a major jobs starter for the country's economy, and this demand will continue based on the aging population and greater longevity. Possible gains in insurance coverage and chronic conditions may also play a factor.

Home health aides are expected to be the third-fastest-growing occupation in all industries, increasing 47 percent over the next 10-year span with physician assistant jobs expected to grow 37 percent, nurse practitioners 36 percent, medical assistants 29 percent, health specialties teachers 26 percent, phlebotomists 24 percent and nursing teachers 24 percent.

Not every part of the sector is rosy, though. Modern Healthcare reports that opportunities for outpatient workers have fallen more than 5 percent over the past decade and largely flattened for hospital workers who directly interact with patients. Their value may increase, however, as more care likely will be done before patients reach the hospital.

And, such an article as this would not be complete unless we mentioned the supposed job shortage expected in the sector. Hospitals and health systems "have been grappling with shortages in primary care physicians, nurses and home health aides," Modern Healthcare stated. Apparently, the country will face a nursing shortage of more than 1 million by 2024.

However, in the BLS report, nursing employment is projected to grow because employment in hospitals is projected to grow: "The projected employment growth rates for these hospitals and the nurses working in them from 2012 to 2022 are 15.2 percent for private general medical and surgical hospitals and 16.6 percent for registered nurses working in those hospitals."

Nursing assistant occupations are projected to grow 21 percent over the next decade. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses occupations are projected to add about 183,000 jobs each over the coming decade.

Technology, too, like telemedicine and artificial intelligence, is expected to complement clinicians and ease their burden rather than replace them.

It's worth noting that healthcare jobs have been a major support to the U.S. economy long before 2012, when the job advances really started to take hold. During the Great Recession, healthcare kept the U.S. job numbers from truly cratering. While there were tremendous losses, healthcare employment continued to grow. During that time, jobs outside healthcare fell by 9.2 million while healthcare added nearly 600,000 jobs.

Per a Health Affairs report, it took until November 2014 for nonhealth jobs to return to their prerecession level, at which point health jobs had grown by 1.7 million:

"As of January 2017, there are 2.5 million more health jobs than at the start of the recession, an increase of 19 percent over a nine-year period during which the U.S. population grew by only 7 percent. While health jobs make up about 11 percent of total jobs, they have accounted for 35 percent of the jobs added since the start of the recession."