December 2021 Healthcare Wage Trends by State

As 2021 wound down, healthcare wage trends for nurses across the nation decreased in more states than increased. However, the 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 more people becoming ill, and potentially needing medical care. Healthcare wage trends tend to follow demand fueled by COVID cases, so wages among nurses will likely increase again 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 marked the first time since April that wage trends indicated more states had decreases in healthcare pay compared to those with increases. Only 12 states had noticeable wage increases during December, not quite a quarter. Of the three with the largest increases, Utah previously tied for having the second-highest increase in June and was in third place in April. It took the top spot for the first time in December, and Oklahoma and Wisconsin are both newcomers in the top three list.

 

  • After posting relatively small increases over the past two months, Utah’s average weekly pay for nurses jumped 8.2% in December, putting it in first place among states. In comparison, healthcare wages in Utah only increased 0.3% in November and 0.8% in October. 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%.


  • Wages in Wisconsin also rose significantly in December following a minuscule 0.5% increase in November and a more robust increase of 3.2% in October. Its 8% 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 that day.


  • Oklahoma broke into the top three for the first time, but at only 3.9%, its wage increase was much lower compared to the top two. However, it’s the largest raise in wages nurses have seen in the state since August when it posted an increase of 17.4%. In more recent months, the increase has barely registered despite ongoing cases of COVID-19 keeping hospitals busy. In September, Oklahoma wages increased by 2.8%, October’s increase was 1.2% and the increase in November was only 0.3%. COVID cases in the state spiked in December, going from a daily average of 756 and 585 new cases on December 1 to a daily average of 2,104 and 3,974 new cases on December 31.

 

State

Avg Weekly Pay November

Avg Weekly Pay December

% Increase

Utah

$2,531

$2,759

8.2%

Wisconsin

$2,794

$3,036

8%

Oklahoma

$2,809

$2,923

3.9%

Minnesota

$3,048

$3,164

3.7%

Missouri

$2,860

$2,957

3.3%

Rhode Island

$3,121

$3,227

3.3%

Massachusetts

$2,816

$2,864

1.7%

Michigan

$2,934

$2,983

1.7%

Tennessee

$2,670

$2,715

1.6%

Washington

$3,192

$3,234

1.3%

Kentucky

$2,942

$2,974

1.1%

California

$3,106

$3,138

1%

 

pexels-lukas-kloeppel-2416589Utah takes the top spot as the state with the highest wage increase in December

States With Wage Decreases

Two-thirds of the states posted a decrease in healthcare wages in December, but five of them were minor enough to warrant being considered relatively unchanged. However, 27 states had decreases of at least 1%. Among those with the largest dips in wages, Delaware posted a significant drop of 15%, followed by Alabama with 10%, and Iowa with 9.5%. In November, the heftiest drop in wages was just 3.7% posted by Georgia and only seven states had a decline of at least 1%.

 

State

Avg Weekly Pay November

Avg Weekly Pay December

% Increase

Delaware

$2,917

$2,537

-15%

Alabama

$2,768

$2,516

-10%

Iowa

$3,038

$2,775

-9.5%

Alaska

$3,359

$3,133

-7.2%

North Dakota

$3,510

$3,292

-6.6%

Montana

$2,680

$2,536

-5.7%

Georgia

$3,110

$2,946

-5.5%

Idaho

$3,336

$3,166

-5.4%

New Jersey

$3,376

$3,202

-5.4%

South Carolina

$2,880

$2,738

-5.2%

Nebraska

$3,033

$2,886

-5.1%

Florida

$2,655

$2,534

-4.8%

Colorado

$3,014

$2,879

-4.7%

South Dakota

$3,091

$2,956

-4.6%

Hawaii

$2,354

$2,279

-3.3%

Pennsylvania

$3,244

$3,152

-2.9%

Oregon

$3,178

$3,095

-2.7%

Virginia

$2,793

$2,733

-2.2%

Louisiana

$2,531

$2,481

-2%

Wyoming

$2,957

$2,899

-2%

North Carolina

$3,016

$2,963

-1.8%

West Virginia

$2,852

$2,816

-1.3%

Mississippi

$2,555

$2,524

-1.2%

Arizona

$2,992

$2,964

-1%

Arkansas

$2,980

$2,949

-1%

Connecticut

$2,833

$2,804

-1%

Nevada

$3,076

$3,045

-1%

 

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 wage changes. Illinois and New York actually had a 0% change because weekly pay only changed by $1. Of the remaining nine, four technically had a small increase in pay while the other five had a small decrease. 

 

State

Avg Weekly Pay November

Avg Weekly Pay December

% Increase

Vermont

$3,076

$3,099

0.8%

New Mexico

$3,110

$3,126

0.5%

New Hampshire

$2,909

$2,922

0.4%

Maryland

$3,027

$3,035

0.3%

Illinois

$3,121

$3,120

0%

New York

$2,997

$2,996

0%

Indiana

$3,113

$3,085

-0.9%

Kansas

$2,677

$2,657

-0.7%

Texas

$2,632

$2,616

-0.6%

Maine

$3,250

$3,232

-0.5%

Ohio

$2,821

$2,814

-0.3%


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Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee

Moira K. McGhee has been a professional writer since 1999. She’s written 1,000s of print or digital feature articles, blogs, advertorials, how-to guides, and landing pages throughout her career. Her work has been featured in several nationally distributed magazines, on numerous websites, and in two super-fun cozy crime anthologies. Moira especially enjoys writing about nurses and the amazing jobs they do!

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