Study finds tightening nurse labor market

An analysis of national data from federal government surveys in the January issue of Health Affairs revealed “a tightening labor market for RNs, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants, marked by falling employment and rising wages” during the first 15 months of the pandemic. Nurse employment in all settings fell at the start of the pandemic but largely rebounded as of June 2021 in all but the nursing home sector. The decline in health care employment is unprecedented, the researchers said, with unemployment rates higher in nonhospital settings and among RNs and nursing assistants who were members of racial and ethnic minority groups. Looking ahead, the researchers wrote, “It is unclear whether the pandemic will lead to increased or decreased interest in nursing. One indicator is the number of applicants to four-year nursing programs, which grew just 1.5 percent in 2020 compared with increases of 4.5 percent and 8.5 percent in the prior two years.”