Total full-time equivalent RN employment remained steady during the first quarter of 2018 at 3.1 million FTEs.

all fte

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

 

Total employment remained steady in both the hospital and non-hospital sectors, even though the overall percentage of RNs employed in hospitals dipped slightly to 57.6%, the lowest level since the first quarter of 2013.

fte by sector

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

 

RN FTE employment in hospitals grew 14% since the first quarter of 2010 but 42% in Non-hospital settings. Within the non-hospital sector, employment in offices of physicians has grown particularly rapidly since 2010, more than doubling in 8 years. The proportion of RNs employed in physician offices grew from 8% to nearly 14% over this time period, possibly reflecting expansions of accountable care organizations who might employ RNs to provide direct treatment or as care coordinators. 

Employment of RNs by age showed similar patterns as in the fourth quarter of 2017. RNs from the large cohorts of the mid-1950s are now reaching age 65 and it is expected that retirements from the workforce will surge, though this has not been observed clearly in the data as of yet. 

 

fte by age 2018

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

 

Finally, we plot hourly RN wages from the annual census data, rather than the quarterly data, to show the longer time trend.

wages 1 q 2018

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

 

Inflation-adjusted hourly earnings for RNs have continued a slow downward trajectory since 2005, reaching $28.55 in 2017, 6.7% below 2005 earnings and the lowest level since 1997. Earnings have generally declined over the last 10 years, coinciding with an influx of younger Millennial RNs into the workforce.

 

Authors: David Auerbach, PhD, Peter Buerhaus PhD, RN, FAAN, and Douglas Staiger, PhD

June 21, 2018