May 15, 2015:

The addition of new employment data for the 1st quarter of 2015 obtained from the Current Population Survey’s Basic Monthly files shows that the total size of the RN workforce increased nearly 3,500 FTE RNs.  However, the nearby Figure shows that 1st quarter employment data moved in opposite directions when RNs were grouped by hospital versus non-hospital employment settings.  Indeed, hospital employment grew nearly 50,000 FTE during the 1st quarter 2015, reversing quarterly losses over the last three quarters of 2014.  This growth brought FTE RN hospital employment to approximately 1.78 million at the end of the 1st quarter 2015, compared to 1.73 million FTE RNs employed in hospitals at the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, employment declined by nearly 44,000 FTEs in non-hospital settings.

The figure below also shows a change in employment growth since 2012.  The general trend from 2005 through 2011 was one in which employment growth in hospital and non-hospital settings tended to move together in the same direction.  Over the past several years, however, FTE RN employment in hospital and non-hospital settings has begun to grow in a see-saw, or opposite direction.  There may be changes and ambiguity on the part of respondents in what constitutes a ‘hospital’ as outpatient care becomes more prevalent.


With regard to the age composition of the RN workforce, the addition of 1st quarter data for 2015 reveals that the share of  FTE RNs over age 50 and those between ages 35-49 continue to dominate the workforce, with each of these age groups exceeding over 1 million RNs.   The number of FTE RNs below age 35 has changed little over the past three quarters, standing at roughly 820,000 at the end of the 1st quarter 2015.  The data suggest that the surge in new RN graduates observed over the past decade may be reaching a plateau.


Note: 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; trends are estimated using a time-series filter to remove cycles up to two years in a period