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Is Nursing Still a Hiring Nightmare?

The growth of health care jobs is truly astonishing. During the recent downturn, health care jobs continued growing unabashed while most other sectors were cutting back, as evident in the following graph from The Brookings Institution.

HC Job growth

This steady job growth has led to significant hiring difficulties for employers. As economic recovery progresses, these hiring issues are only getting worse. Yet, hiring difficulties are not equally serious for every type of health care job.

If we look at nursing, for example, there are significant differences between nursing jobs. Most registered nurses have at least a bachelor’s degree, while licensed practical nurses typically have an associate degree, and nursing aides only a high school diploma, according to data from CareerBuilder’s Supply & Demand Portal. It turns out that hiring difficulties are concentrated in the most educated segment of the nursing market.


Registered nurses remain hard to recruit, according to the Supply & Demand Portal, with a hiring indicator of 31, indicating that only 31 percent of jobs in the economy are even harder to fill than registered nurses opening. By contrast, nursing aides and licensed practical nurses have a hiring indicator of more than 70, indicating that recruitment is easier than in 70 percent of other jobs in the economy.


It is plausible that hiring difficulties in the market for registered nurses will not resolve any time soon, because it takes time to for job seekers to acquire the typically required bachelor’s degree or higher. By contrast, it is easier for job seekers to get the necessary qualifications for lower skilled positions such as nursing aides: this means that, if there is a strong growth in the sector, more job seekers will become available to fill these nursing aide positions.

To see an improvement in the registered nurse market, one needs to wait for schools and students to catch up to the demand and train more registered nurses. To the extent that the demand for registered nurses keeps growing, however, this is going to be a hard race to win.

Ioana Marinescu

About Ioana Marinescu

Ioana Marinescu is an assistant professor in economics at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Her research focuses on understanding labor markets. She has been collaborating on data and research projects with CareerBuilder and she is especially interested in how to get the right people to work in the right jobs. You can follow her on twitter @mioana and check out her research on her website,


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