March 31, 2017

March 2017 Release of BLS Employment Statistics Report: First Look

March 2017 Release of BLS Employment Statistics Report: First Look

By Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC

On March 31st, 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program released its Occupational Employment and Wages Report for data from May of 2016. These averages are calculated for over 400 industries in the United States, including nursing and healthcare. 

Once again, the overall news for healthcare, nurses, and the nursing profession is positive. 

Healthcare By The Numbers

As of May 2016, 8.3 million Americans were employed as health care providers or in related technical positions. An additional 4 million were working in healthcare support positions. Combined, this group made up 9 percent of employed Americans. 

2.9 million nursing jobs were filled at the time of the report, with nurses remaining the largest group of workers within the healthcare industry. Approximately 1.6 million of those nursing positions were identified as being “in the general medical and surgical hospitals industry.” 

The next largest segments of the healthcare industry were identified as: 

Nursing assistants (1.4 million)

Home health aides (814,300)

Licensed practical/vocational nurses (702,400)

As has been identified in the past, the large majority (14 out of 15) of the highest-paying occupations in the United States were in the healthcare sector.  

The lowest paying health care workers were home health aides ($23,600) and veterinary assistants. 

The annual mean wage for those who work in healthcare (both providers and technicians) was reported as being $63,930 in Louisiana and $97,720 in Alaska. The national annual mean wage in healthcare was $79,160. 

Nationwide, registered nurses clocked in with “above average” wages at $72,180. 

The California region of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara ranked as one of the highest in terms of healthcare wages, and the lowest paying areas were Lake Charles, La. ($53,540), and Jackson, Tenn. ($58,300). 


  Employment Mean Hourly Mean Annual Median Hourly Wages
Registered nurses 2,857,180 34.70 72,180 32.91
Nurse Anesthetists 39,860 78.86 164,030 77.05
Nurse midwives 6,270 49.23 102,390 47.97
Nurse practitioners 150,230 50.30 104,610 48.52
LPNs & LVNs 702,400 21.56 44,840 21.20

Education Matters

21 percent of all jobs in the United States “typically” required a bachelor’s degree for entry, and the BLS identified nursing as one of these occupations. 

For those without a college degree, 6 percent of the jobs in the country required a post-secondary certificate, such as positions for vocational and practical nurses. 

Our Conclusions

From our perspective, the takeaway from this BLS/OES report is that nursing remains a strong profession within the healthcare industry and the nation as a whole. 

9 percent of Americans work in the healthcare sector, and 14 out of 15 of the highest-paying jobs in the country are in healthcare. 

We see no reason for these numbers to decrease as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age and retire in large numbers. 

With 21 percent of all jobs in the U.S. typically requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry, it’s clear that education still matters in terms of Americans being marketable for high-paying jobs. 

Nurses, we encourage you to consider the region where you live, your relative earning potential and the number of positions available in relation to your level of education. For those without a BSN, consider whether further education will increase your earnings and marketability. 

We are optimistic that the nursing profession remains strong nationwide in terms of jobs and wages, and we encourage you to feel optimistic as you move forward in your nursing career. 


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach (NC-BC), award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith’s work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.

Also Read: 15 Highest Paying Nursing Specialties

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