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Nursing Jobs. In Demand or Not?

January 16, 2013

By Jeff Pinkerton

In our last post we discussed the overall flat employment growth in the region in 2012. Losses in construction and information were more than made up for by growth in business services (especially in the professional, technical and scientific industries).

Hidden in that post is the fact that we had only modest growth in the health and education industry. (The health and education industry is overwhelmingly focused on health care. The education industry in this instance refers only to private educational institutions. Public education is a part of government.)

Nov12MSAEmpChange
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Throughout the recession, health care was the one industry that continued to have reliable employment growth, both locally and nationally. Experts have long expected the health care field to remain strong. The thinking is that as our population ages and the baby boom generation reaches the mid-60s there will be more and more demand for health-related services. This is still true. We are aging as a society and we are demanding more health care. So why the tepid growth in health care jobs?

A recent article on CNN sheds some light on the subject. It seems that registered nurses who don’t have on-the-job experience are having a difficult time finding work. In fact, a survey from the American Society of Registered Nurses says that 43 percent of newly certified RNs can’t find work within 18 months of graduation.

The reason for this glut is the fact that working nurses are not retiring at the rate they once did. Typically, about 73,000 nurses would retire each year nationwide. Since the recession, that figure has dropped as veteran RNs have stayed on the job to make up for damage to 401(k)s, spouses who may have lost employment or just the continued economic uncertainty.

We see some evidence of this locally. Local help wanted ads for registered nurses are down from one year ago.

This is a unique situation, and one that will probably be short-lived. It is likely that when 401(k)s are restored and people are more confident in the economy, some of these nurses who are holding on will retire and more openings for our freshly minted nurses will be available.

It is unfortunate that thousands of newly educated nurses have to go through this, especially when all the history and data told them that demand for nurses would continue to rise. Instead of heading into work right after graduation, they may have to delay their careers until this anomaly plays out.

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