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Nonprofit employment recovery slowed significantly in September, still down by nearly 8%

% nonprofit jobs still missing in key fields as of Aug. and Sept. 2020

As part of our continued effort to track the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on nonprofit employment recovery, we have analyzed data from the latest BLS Employment Situation Report to estimate nonprofit job losses through September 2020.

How did nonprofits fare in September?

Unfortunately, the month of September showed only a modest 2 percent employment recovery for nonprofits compared to the situation we reported in August.1 The only major field that enjoyed a rebound of more than 10% overall was social assistance at 12.8 percent. What is more, September brought significant additional losses in the key field of education totaling nearly 50,000 jobs—a drop of 24 percent from August employment levels, as shown in Figure 1.

Change in nonprofit jobs, September vs. August 2020

As of September 2020, the nonprofit workforce remained down by nearly 1 million jobs compared to its pre-pandemic February levels. Especially still hard hit are nonprofit jobs in many of the key service fields critical to the COVID response, including: nearly 300,000 jobs lost in health care; over a quarter million jobs lost in private education; more than 150,000 jobs lost in the social services field; and almost 125,000 jobs lost in the arts, as shown in Figure 2.

Estimated nonprofit jobs lost, Mar.-Sept. 2020

As a result, as shown in Figure 3, the total nonprofit workforce at the end of September 2020 thus remained down by 7.6 percent from its pre-March 2020 level. Particularly hard-hit were jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation (-35 percent); education (-12.6 percent); other services, which includes foundations and civic, social, and advocacy organizations (-11.2 precent), and social services (-10 percent).

% nonprofit jobs still missing in key fields as of Aug. and Sept. 2020

A steadily slowing recovery—June through September
The slowdown in job recovery reflected in the September data is unfortunately not an outlier. To the contrary, it continues a slowdown in the recovery that has been underway for several months, especially in fields in which nonprofits are particularly active. Thus, while over 24 percent of the estimated 1.6 million total pandemic-related nonprofit job losses2 were recovered in June, the rate of recovery slipped to 9 percent in July, to barely 7 percent in August, and to only 1.1 percent in September, as shown in Figure 4.

% initial npo job losses recovered by month, all fields, June-Sept. 2020

As shown in Figure 5, moreover, this progressive slowdown in the recovery was evident in almost every field.

% initial job losses recovered by month, key fields, June-Sept. 2020


With discouraging evidence that the COVID virus is far from tamed and impediments to the return to normalcy in fields in which nonprofits are active likely to remain in place, the estimated 1 million nonprofit workers who have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic may therefore not regain them anytime soon. With Congress and the administration unable to come to agreement on a meaningful new recovery package, it will be up to strained charities to help the nonprofit workforce cope with the pressures its members are under—a challenge that at least some communities have heroically undertaken. In the meantime, we can hope that the imminent election will yield a set of policy measures that can tame the pandemic and thereby open the way to reviving the economy and the workplace for our country’s third largest workforce. Beyond that, it will be more vital than ever to keep a close eye on the status of the nonprofit workforce and ensure that these critical organizations and the workers who allow them to operate receive the support they need and deserve.


1 August employment recovery estimates have been adjusted to reflect BLS revisions adding 145,000 more jobs in July and August than previously reported. BLS monthly
revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation
of seasonal factors. For more information, see: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics September Employment Situation Report.

2 See: Salamon & Newhouse, Johns Hopkins 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies), June 2020.

Reprinted from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.


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