More Below Trend Quarters Reveal Post-recession Trend: Declines in Staff Nurse Real Wages

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Newly published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal the current trend for hospital staff nurses is declining inflation-adjusted wages. Using 2012 as a baseline for inflation-adjusted dollars, average annual staff RN wages in private hospitals have dropped from $73,580 in the last quarter of 2008 to $70,765 in the second quarter of 2013. Inflation-adjusted annual fringe benefits also declined over that time frame, dropping from $33,485 to $32,662. (About 85% of hospital staff nurses work in private hospitals.)

We can only hope that hospitals steer carefully through this period.  Hospitals should be continuing to hire some new grad RNs to maintain stability into the next few years. It is possible that average RN wages—both nominal and inflation-adjusted—will appear to decline as the mix of RN vintages changes to a new equilibrium.  As anticipated retirements become effective for the one million RNs who entered the profession during the late 1970s and early 1980s, hospitals will have to become more aggressive in hiring new RNs.