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Nonprofit jobs still down by nearly 1 million despite a partial recovery

By Chelsea Newhouse
September 14, 2020

Sculpture of five men on a bread line during the Great Depression
Image by Momentmal from Pixabay

Reprinted from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

Despite a partial recovery of the U.S. economy from the recent pandemic, new data released today by the U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics suggests that nonprofit employment is still down by an estimated nearly 1 million jobs compared to where it stood in February 2020, before the coronavirus hit.

As shown in Figure 1, 32 percent of these losses were in the health care field, 22 percent in education, and 19 percent in social assistance, all of these crucial fields in the coronavirus and economic recovery efforts.

Estimated nonprofit job losses, March-August 2020

As a share of their 12.5 million workers as of 2017—the latest year for which data are available—nonprofit jobs were thus still down 8 percent overall through the end of August 2020. But in some especially critical fields, as shown in Figure 2, the estimated shrinkage remained more severe—down nearly 11 percent in educational services, nearly 12 percent in social assistance, and nearly 38 percent in arts and recreation.

Percent of nonprofit jobs still lost in key fields, August vs. February 2020

The August data did suggest that nonprofits benefited to some degree from the partial recovery of the U.S. economy as of the end of August, though this benefit apparently varied substantially by field, with the bulk concentrated in the health care field, while the recovery of education and social service jobs was considerably slower, as shown in Figure 3.

Estimated nonprofit jobs recovered since May 2020

Given the critical role that social services play in the ability of citizens to return to work, we looked a little more closely at where the limited recovery of social service jobs occurred, and where it did not. As shown in Figure 4, the good news is that the vast majority of jobs lost in community food, housing, and relief services were restored as of the end of August, though it seems unlikely that this was sufficient to meet the enormous expansion in need for these services that the pandemic-induced economic collapse has produced. By contrast, however, less than 6 percent of the nonprofit jobs lost in day care services have been restored, suggesting a serious obstacle limiting parents’ ability to return to work with schools still unable to open safely in numerous locales.

Percent of estimated nonprofit social assitance job losses recovered between May and August 2020

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