Total employment of registered nurses (RNs) continued to increase at a brisk rate in the 3rd quarter of 2016.
 Employment increased in both hospital and non-hospital settings. 
 Sharp increase in employment of younger age RNs

total fte

 

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

Nursing workforce data from the 3rd quarter of 2016 show that the number of full-time employees (FTE) grew by 117,000 since the 2nd quarter of 2016 and more than 200,000 (7 percent) since the end of 2015.

 

fte by industry

 

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

Analysis by industry sector showed an increase in both hospital and non-hospital employed RNs. This brings hospital-employed RNs to a new all-time high of 2.05 million. Non-hospital FTEs at 1.31 million this quarter are approaching their previous all-time high of 1.33 million in 2013.

 

fte rn by age

 

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

When stratified into age groups, employment of RNs age 35 and under grew rapidly, increasing by 182,000 since the 1st quarter of 2016. The number of FTE RNs age 35-49 also increased by 89,000 since the beginning of 2016, while employment of FTE RNs age 50 and over leveled out in early 2016 and is decreased by about 46,000 in the 3rd quarter.

 

fte rn hourly wage

 

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

Although there is considerable fluctuation in the wage data due to sample size limitations, the long-run inflation-adjusted wage trend continued its downward drift over the past 7 years.  At the end of the 3rd quarter 2016, real RN wages had reached their lowest level ($26.87 per hour) since before 2005.

Quarterly data are compiled from the Current Population Survey basic monthly data 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.

In this quarterly estimate, we re-estimated the designation of full-time equivalent (FTE) to be consistent with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Originally we defined RNs who worked less than 30 hours per week as 0.5 FTE and those who worked 30 or more hours as 1.0 FTE. To calculate the new FTE definition, we fixed 1 FTE as the average among all full-time RNs in the sample (roughly 38 hours per week). We then assigned all RNs a FTE-ratio number based on their reported number of hours to the 1 FTE equivalent.

We retrospectively computed this new FTE ratio back to the beginning of 2005 and compared these results to our old FTE definition. A comparison chart of total old and new FTE RNs from 2005 to the 2nd quarter of 2016 show that the new FTE definition captures a larger total number of RNs and follows the same patterns of increase and decrease in the workforce as the full-time RN population using the old FTE definition.

 

new old FTE

 

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