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Nonprofit jobs rebound slightly in October, but remain down by over 900,000 compared to pre-COVID levels

By Chelsea Newhouse
November 18, 2020

Smaller version of figure 3. See figure 3 below for description.

Reprinted from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

In our continuing effort to track the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on nonprofit employment, we have analyzed data from the latest BLS Employment Situation Report to estimate nonprofit job losses through October 2020. We then looked at month-over-month trends to see how the overall recovery of early nonprofit job losses is proceeding.

Part 1: Nonprofit job losses as of October 2020

As of October 2020, the nonprofit workforce remained down by over 900,000 jobs compared to its February 2020 level, representing a 7.3 percent decline, as shown in Figure 1. These missing jobs include over a quarter million workers in health care institutions; nearly a quarter million workers in nonprofit educational organizations; over 145,000 workers in social assistance organizations; and more than 120,000 workers in nonprofit arts and culture organizations.

Chart of estimated nonprofit jobs missing, Oct vs. Feb 2020

As shown in Figure 2, the month of October saw a modest 4 percent recovery of nonprofit jobs compared to the level in the previous month of September. While this was an improvement over the situation we reported in September, only in the health field did the improvement approach 10 percent of the remaining losses reported in September.1 And in the key field of education, October continued a troubling trend of losses totaling an additional 15,000 jobs—a drop of 6.6 percent from the already depressed September employment level in this field.

Table of change in nonprofit jobs, Oct. vs. Sept. 2020

More generally, the month-to-month improvement in the nonprofit job picture has been modest at best in most fields, and has noticeably worsened in the field of education, as shown in Figure 3.

Chart of percent of nonprofit jobs still missing in key fields as of Aug., Sept., & Oct. 2020 vs. Feb. 2020

Part 2: A stalling recovery—June through October

This anemic improvement in the share of nonprofit jobs missing over the past three months reflects the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on jobs, especially in fields in which nonprofits operate. Thus, as shown in Figure 4, while during the month of June nonprofits recovered a robust 24 percent of the estimated 1.6 million nonprofit jobs missing as of May,2 by October that recovery rate had dropped to a mere 2.3 percent. At October’s recovery rate, it would take an additional two years for the nonprofit sector to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.

Chart of percent of initial nonprofit job losses recovered by month, all fields, June-Oct. 2020. June: 24.4%. July: 9.1%. Aug: 7.0%. Sept: 1.7%. Oct: 2.3%.

As shown in Figure 5, this pattern of progressively slower recovery of overall jobs lost at the onset of the pandemic was evident in almost every field. Of particular note is the education field, where losses in the months of September and October effectively wiped out all of the gains seen in July and August. Another point of concern is the dramatic drop-off seen in October in religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations—which had previously defied this downward trend, but saw less than a 1 percent recovery in October.

Chart of percent of initial nonprofit job losses recovered by month, key fields, June-Oct. 2020

Conclusion

With the onset of the recent spike in daily COVID-19 infections and deaths and the resulting re-institutions of restrictions aimed at curbing these new trends, it seems quite possible that even the recent slow recovery in nonprofit jobs evident in recent months will not be sustained in November and possibly beyond. While hope may be on the horizon in the form of promising treatments, vaccines, and the potential for more proactive government intervention, it will therefore be crucial to continue to monitor the impact of the current COVID surge on the nonprofit workforce, which remains a crucial lifeline to the delivery of services vital to the health and safety, as well as the economic recovery, of the nation.

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1 Our September update found that, as of September, nonprofit job losses stood at an estimated 973,352. However, BLS revisions for August and September resulted in this new estimate for September. 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: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics October Employment Situation Report.

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

Tags: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19); Social sector