The addition of new employment data for the 3rd quarter of 2015 obtained from the Current Population Survey’s Basic Monthly files shows the full-time RN workforce is nearly 3 million strong.

Q3_total fte RN

Source: Authors’ analysis of Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey

If one were to look back 10 years ago to the 3rd quarter of 2005, when there were approximately 2,250,000 FTE RNS, the FTE RN workforce has grown by nearly 720,000.

As shown in the next figure, 3rd quarter employment rebalanced back toward non-hospital settings. The percentage of RNs employed in hospitals now stands at 63%.  Nevertheless, the total number of hospital-employed RNs has grown, increasingly nearly 100,000 FTE RNs (5.8%) more than the in 3rd quarter 2014. This growth is consistent with the Altarum Institute’s October report which noted a  6-fold stronger growth in hospital employment in the first three quarters of 2015 (125,000) compared to that same period in 2014.[1]

Q3 FTE RN by sector

Source: Authors’ analysis of Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey

With respect to the age composition of the FTE RN workforce, the number of younger RNs (under age 35) spiked in the 3rd quarter 2015 after having leveled off for the previous four quarters.  We now count 890,000 RNs under age 35, or 30% of the entire workforce (the highest level recorded in this data since 1994!). Industry sources, particularly staffing firms such as AMN, note very strong growth in demand for RNs. The 3rd quarter 2015 data show a decline in the numbers of older RNs, which could be fueling demand for younger RNs.

Q3 FTE RN by age

Source: Authors’ analysis of Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey


About this data:

Quarterly data are compiled from the Current Population Survey basic monthly files, which are released with roughly a one-month delay. These data contain basic demographic and labor force variables for all respondents, as well as wage and hourly data for a portion of the respondents. Quarterly statistics are reported as an average of the three months’ values.


[1] Altarum Institute Monthly Labor Brief, Center for Sustainable Health Spending: Insights from Monthly Employment Data through September, 2015, “Hospital hiring boom continues”,