Total employment growth of registered nurses (RNs) levels off in the 4th quarter of 2016 - Evidence of long-anticipated RN retirement

total fte quarterly data 4.2016

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

 

Nursing workforce data from the 4th quarter of 2016 show that the number of full-time employee (FTE) registered nurses (RNs) decreased by about 48,000 since the 3rd quarter of 2016.  This reduction is only the second decrease in total RN employment during the past 10 quarters. The data includes Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).

 

rn quarterly fte by age 4.2016

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

 

Employment of RNs age 35 and under, which grew rapidly during the first 3 quarters of 2016, decreased in the last 3 months of 2016. The number of FTE RNs age 35-49 continues to grow, reaching a record high of over 1.2 million. FTE RNs age 50 and over leveled out in early 2016 and continued to decrease in the 4th quarter, which likely reflects the long-awaited retirement of RNs from the workforce.  

 

fte rn by employment 4.2016

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

 

When examined by major area of employment, FTE RN employment in hospitals decreased slightly in last three months of 2016, dipping just below 2 million.  Non-hospital FTE RNs increased for the third straight quarter, only about 5,000 FTE RNs away from the all-time employment mark of 1.33 million set in 2013. 

 

rn hourly wage 4.2016

Source: Authors’ analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Wage data are adjusted for inflation using the CPI.

 

Though there is considerable fluctuation in the wage data due to sample size limitations, the long-run inflation-adjusted wage trend has spiked back up from $26.87 in the 3rd quarter of 2016 to $28.52 in the 4th quarter.

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. To calculate the status of full-time equivalent (FTE), 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.