December 2021 Travel Nursing Wage Trends by State

As 2021 wound down, healthcare wage trends for nurses across the nation increased in just under half the states and most increases were less than 3%. Wages decreased in 15 states and stayed relatively unchanged in 11 more. However, any decrease may be short-lived as hospitals once again began filling up with COVID patients as December progressed. The latest spike may have been largely due to the emerging Omicron variant, which first appeared in the U.S. on December 1 and spread as rapidly as experts predicted. While the new variant appears to produce milder symptoms than its predecessors, the sheer contagiousness of the variant still meant greater numbers of people becoming ill, potentially needing medical care, and filling up hospital beds. Healthcare wage trends tend to follow demand fueled by COVID cases, so wages among nurses could increase in the new year.

States With Wage Increases

COVID cases took another upswing in December primarily due to the fast-moving Omicron variant, holiday gatherings, and colder weather forcing people indoors, However, December saw fewer states with healthcare wage increases and many increases were small. Only 24 states had noticeable wage increases during December, not quite half. Of the three with the largest increases, Wisconsin, a newcomer among the top three, had the greatest increase this month. Maryland had the second highest increase and New York and Utah tied for third-highest.

 

  • Wages in Wisconsin rose significantly in December following a minuscule 0.5% increase in November and a more robust increase of 3.1% in October. Its 6.7% jump in healthcare wages in December was its second-highest increase of the year with its 10.8% increase in August the highest. Wisconsin saw a major spike in COVID cases on December 8 with 14,313 new infections reported. As the year drew to a close, the state had a daily average of 5,300 cases with 8,010 new cases reported on New Year’s Eve.

 

  • Maryland saw an increase of 6.1% after posting nearly the same In November, when healthcare pay rates rose 5.8% in the state. Deaths involving COVID rose slightly from 317 in November to 353 in December. The state set a record for COVID cases reported in a single day with 9,859 positives reported on Dec. 24, recorded from tests conducted December 23. The new number shattered the previous record of 6,869 cases set just one day earlier.

 

  • Utah and New York tied for having the third-highest wage increase in December. After posting relatively small increases over the past two months, Utah’s jump of 5.1% in average weekly pay for nurses was substantial enough to place it in the top three. Utah had a daily average of 1,899 COVID cases and 3,563 new cases on December 30 but a major spike was looming. By January 9, Utah’s daily average jumped to 5,630 resulting in a 14-day change of plus 461%. New York’s average weekly wage also jumped 5.1%, resulting in the tie for third place. The New York State Health Department reported a record-high 44,431 new COVID-19 cases in a single 24-hour period during the Christmas holiday.

 

State

Avg Weekly Pay November

Avg Weekly Pay December

% Increase

Wisconsin

$2,796

$2,997

6.7%

Maryland

$3,033

$3,231

5.8%

New York

$3,024

$3,187

5.1%

Utah

$2,543

$2,679

5.1%

Maine

$3,259

$3,405

4.3%

Kentucky

$2,941

$3,065

4.1%

Minnesota

$3,056

$3,187

4.1%

Michigan

$2,937

$3,059

4.0%

Kansas

$2,688

$2,770

3.0%

Connecticut

$2,847

$2,932

2.9%

Arizona

$2,997

$3,082

2.8%

Massachusetts

$2,836

$2,919

2.8%

Indiana

$3,153

$3,230

2.4%

Nevada

$3,105

$3,181

2.4%

Washington

$3,202

$3,282

2.4%

Illinois

$3,131

$3,207

2.3%

Ohio

$2,827

$2,895

2.3%

Missouri

$2,870

$2,926

1.9%

Pennsylvania

$3,268

$3,326

1.8%

New Hampshire

$2,916

$2,960

1.5%

New Jersey

$3,379

$3,426

1.4%

Texas

$2,646

$2,683

1.4%

New Mexico

$3,116

$3,158

1.3%

West Virginia

$2,912

$2,944

1.1%

 

States With Wage Decreases

Only 15 states posted a decrease in healthcare wages in December and two of them were substantial. Delaware posted a 12% drop in wages and Alaska had an 11% drop. Rounding out the top three was Montana, which had a much lower wage drop of 5.6%. The remaining 12 states saw healthcare wages drop between 1.2% to 4.3%. Four more states also had lower healthcare pay rates for the month, but the decline was minor enough to warrant being considered relatively unchanged.

State

Avg Weekly Pay November

Avg Weekly Pay December

% Increase

Delaware

$2,924

$2,611

-12%

Alaska

$3,329

$2,999

-11%

Montana

$2,692

$2,549

-5.6%

Idaho

$3,341

$3,203

-4.3%

Georgia

$3,108

$2,983

-4.2%

Florida

$2,654

$2,562

-3.6%

Mississippi

$2,558

$2,484

-3.0%

South Dakota

$3,107

$3,023

-2.8%

Alabama

$2,785

$2,719

-2.4%

North Carolina

$3,021

$2,964

-1.9%

South Carolina

$2,887

$2,834

-1.9%

Wyoming

$2,962

$2,911

-1.7%

North Dakota

$3,515

$3,459

-1.6%

Rhode Island

$3,124

$3,078

-1.5%

Oregon

$3,185

$3,148

-1.2%

 

States That Stayed the Same

Changes in wages of less than 1%, whether it’s positive or negative, are small enough to be considered unchanged. Therefore, 11 states were placed on this list for having insignificant healthcare wage changes for December. Iowa and Nebraska actually posted a 0% change because the difference in weekly pay was $1 or less. Of the remaining nine, five technically had a small increase in pay while the other four had a small decrease.

 

State

Avg Weekly Pay November

Avg Weekly Pay December

% Increase

Arkansas

$2,993

$3,017

0.8%

California

$3,128

$3,151

0.7%

Vermont

$3,117

$3,139

0.7%

Louisiana

$2,543

$2,559

0.6%

Tennessee

$2,677

$2,690

0.5%

Iowa

$3,045

$3,045

0.0%

Nebraska

$3,042

$3,041

0.0%

Hawaii

$2,388

$2,379

-0.4%

Virginia

$2,811

$2,792

-0.7%

Oklahoma

$2,812

$2,790

-0.8%

Colorado

$3,024

$3,001

-0.8%

 

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Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee is Vivian’s Content Writer & Editor. As part of the Vivian Health team, she strives to help support the empowerment of nurses and other medical professionals in their pursuits to find top-notch travel, staff, per diem and local contract jobs.

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