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Nonprofit job recovery rate drops to 1.9% in November, could take 2.4 years to fully recover

Person sitting in front of an office building, holding a sign in front of their face stating, I LOST my job due to CORONAVIRUS

Reprinted from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

As 2020 draws to a close, we have analyzed data from the latest BLS Employment Situation Report to estimate nonprofit job losses through November, continuing our effort to track the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on nonprofit employment. We then looked at month-over-month trends to see how the overall recovery of early nonprofit jobs losses is proceeding and what that may mean for the long-term recovery of sector employment into 2021 and beyond.

Part 1: Nonprofit job losses as of November 2020

As of November 2020, the nonprofit workforce remained down by nearly 878,000 jobs compared to February 2020, representing a 7 percent decline from its pre-pandemic level, as shown in Figure 1. These lost jobs include over a quarter million workers in nonprofit educational organizations; nearly a quarter million workers in health care institutions; over 135,000 workers in social assistance organizations; and more than 115,000 workers in nonprofit arts and culture organizations.

Table of estimated nonprofit job losses, Nov vs Feb 2020

As shown in Figure 2, the month of November saw just a 3.4 percent recovery of nonprofit jobs compared to the level in the previous month of October.1 November also saw a continuation of losses in the key field of education, with nonprofit educational institutions shedding an additional 4,000 jobs during this period on the heels of over 15,000 losses during October. In addition, the field encompassing religious institutions, foundations, and associations recovered only 120 jobs in November, representing a 0.2 percent recovery—a precipitous drop from the October recovery rate of 1.7 percent in this field.

Table of change in nonprofit job loss, Nov vs Oct 2020

More generally, the month-to-month improvement in the nonprofit job picture has been modest at best, with the past 4 months seeing only an overall recovery of .8 percent of nonprofit jobs, as shown in Figure 3 (choose a field from the drop-down to see field-level data).

Graph of Percent of nonprofit jobs still missing in key fields, by month, July-November 2020

Part 2: Tracking the recovery—June through November

This troublingly slow improvement in the share of nonprofit jobs missing over the past four months reflects the stubborn impact of the pandemic on employment, especially in fields where nonprofits are present. Thus, November’s 30,735 recovered jobs represented a recovery rate of just 1.9 percent of the estimated 1.64 million initial job losses from the first 3 months of the pandemic (i.e., March, April, and May) as reported in our 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report. This represents a reversal of the small upward bump in job recoveries achieved in October, as shown in Figure 4.

What is more, this pattern of declining recovery rates was evident in every field (choose a field from the drop-down menu to see field-level data). Of continuing concern is the education field, where losses in the months of September and October continued into November, albeit at a slower rate.

Table of Percent of nonprofit jobs recovered by month, June-November 2020

Part 3: Years to recovery at recent rates

If the rate of nonprofit job growth evident in November persists, it would take the nonprofit sector 2.4 years to dig its way out of the 877,802 job losses that remained as of November,2 as shown in Figure 5.

Graph of Years until full recovery to 2017 employment level at current rates


Given the dramatic recent surges in new COVID-19 infections and deaths, the increasing restrictions being instituted around the country in an attempt to stem the tide, the looming expiration of existing policy interventions, and the likelihood that vaccinations will not be available to the majority of the population until at least the second quarter of 2021, it seems likely that the recent slowing of nonprofit job recovery will persist, or perhaps even intensify in the coming months. This will put added strain on institutions that are especially critical to managing this crisis.

Luckily, the nonprofit sector has a constellation of strong advocates working to ensure that these critical organizations are included in the next rounds of support legislation when and if they arrive. The ability of the country to recover from its current crisis may well depend on it. As we head into the new year it will therefore be especially important to continue to track the impact of the evolving situation on this critical sector and its workforce.


1. Our October update found that, as of October, nonprofit job losses stood at an estimated 949,048. However, BLS revisions for September and October resulted in this new estimate for October. 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: BLS November EmpSit Report (12/4/2020).

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


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