January 6, 2022

Nurse employment declined during first 15 months of COVID-19 pandemic

Editor's Note

This study led by nurse researcher Peter I. Buerhaus, PhD, RN, FAAN, at Montana State University, Bozeman, finds a tightening of the labor market for RNs, LPNs, and nursing assistants (NAs), marked by falling employment and rising wages from February 2020 through June 2021.

The researchers found unprecedented declines in the nursing workforce in the early months of the pandemic, most notably in physician offices, outpatient care centers, and home health care.

Though employment in most sectors returned to near prepandemic levels over 2020, overall unemployment rates remained higher in nonhospital settings, particularly nursing homes, with total employment 13.2% lower in June 2021 than in February 2020.

Unemployment rates also remain higher among RNs and NAs who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. In the second quarter, of 2021, unemployment rates for White RNs and NAs were below what they had been in 2019, whereas unemployment rates for racial and ethnic minority groups were 1.6% and 2.7% higher, respectively.


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