COVID-19 JOBS UPDATE, JULY 2021 | Nonprofits add nearly 70,000 jobs, with educational institutions leading the way

By on August 18, 2021

August 18, 2021
For immediate release
Contact: Chelsea Newhouse
[download as PDF]
In our continuing effort to track the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on nonprofit employment, this report documents our estimates of COVID-induced nonprofit job losses through July 2021, as reflected in the July BLS Employment Situation Report. July’s BLS data showed a robust gain of 700,000, private non-farm jobs nationwide during the month. While over 60% of those total jobs accrued to accommodation and food service businesses, all fields in which nonprofits operate saw gains during the month as well. What is more, a revision of June’s data included in the July report resulted in sizable retroactive gains for June in two important nonprofit fields—education and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional associations.
Part 1 of this report spotlights the changes in nonprofit employment during July 2021. Part 2 then details the recovery of nonprofit jobs over the past several months and notes where that leaves nonprofit employment as of July 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic period. Against this backdrop, Part 3 provides an updated estimate of the time it will take the nonprofit sector to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.

PART 1 | Change in Nonprofit Jobs in July 2021

As shown in Figure 1, July saw a sizable gain of more than 67,000 nonprofit jobs compared to June 2021’s total—representing a gain of nearly 10% of the 682,000 jobs still lost as of June.1Our June update found that, as of June 2021, nonprofit job losses stood at an estimated 684,896. However, BLS revisions for May and June resulted in a new estimate for June, which we have incorporated in Figure 1. 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 July Employment Situation Report (8/6/2021).
The educational field in particular continued its recent strong recovery trend, adding over 28,300 jobs—an increase of nearly 15% during the month over June’s staffing levels. Employment in religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations grew by over 20% during the month, adding over 10,000 total jobs, and nonprofit arts, entertainment, and recreational organizations added over 8,000 jobs in July, increasing employment in this sector by more than 11% over June’s numbers. Also notable was the increase in nonprofit jobs in the social assistance field, which added over 13,000 jobs in July, a gain of 5% over where it stood in June.
Nonprofit health care institutions, meanwhile, added nearly 16,000 jobs during July—a gain of nearly 7% over June’s levels, and a welcome reversal of the record of fresh losses seen in June 2021. Notably, the majority of these gains were seen in hospitals (15,340), which shed over 6,000 jobs in June but rebounded strongly in July. Ambulatory health care services also added 6,157 jobs in July. However, nursing and residential care facilities continued to shed jobs in July 2021, losing nearly 5,000 workers during the month, continuing a 14-month trend of additional job losses in this field since we began tracking the recovery in June 2020.

PART 2 | Tracking the recovery of nonprofit jobs from from initial estimates of pandemic reductions

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofit institutions accounted for at least 12.5 million total jobs. As reported in our 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report, during the first three months of the pandemic (i.e., March, April, and May 2020), nonprofits had lost a conservatively estimated 1.64 million of those jobs, reducing the nonprofit workforce by 13.2% as of May 2020. This section examines the progress made by nonprofits in recovering those lost jobs over the ensuing months.2To estimate nonprofit job losses, we began with the latest available Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data on nonprofit employment by field, which cover 2017, and calculated the nonprofit shares of total private employment by field as of this date. We then applied these shares to the monthly changes from pre-COVID (i.e., February 2020) levels in private employment by field as reported in the monthly BLS Employment Situation Reports to derive our estimates of monthly changes in nonprofit employment by field, such as those reflected in Figures 1 and 3 of this report. For more on these estimates, see: Salamon & Newhouse, “The 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report,” Nonprofit Economic Data Bulletin no. 48, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, June 2020).
As shown in Figure 2, in June, July, and August, 2020, significant shares of the initial 1.64 million lost nonprofit jobs were recovered, regaining a combined 40.6% of these lost jobs. Beginning in September 2020, however, this recovery slowed significantly, with the months of September 2020-February 2021 seeing a combined recovery of only 4.2% overall. Fortunately, the Spring of 2021 saw a stronger overall recovery, with March, April, and May making up an additional 9.6% of the losses. Thus far, Summer 2021 has continued this stronger recovery trend, with June’s adjusted 68,000 recovered jobs representing the recovery of 4.2% of the estimated 1.64 million jobs lost during the first three months of the pandemic, and July’s 67,000 recovered jobs representing a similar 4.1% recovery. Thus, over the full recovery period (i.e., June 2020-July 2021), nonprofits have now recovered a combined 62.6% of the jobs lost as of May 2020.

As also shown in Figure 2, all fields of nonprofit activity saw gains over the pandemic lows in July 2021, although the rate of recovery varied significantly by field. The largest July gains were seen in the educational field, which regained 8.8% of its initial losses during the month. Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations regained 7% of their initial losses in July 2021; and the arts, entertainment, and recreation field continued a recent trend of relatively strong growth, reversing an additional 4% of its pandemic workforce losses. The health care field, meanwhile, rebounded from a loss of jobs in June to recover nearly 3% of jobs initially lost in the this field. In addition, social assistance organizations recovered 1.6% of previously lost jobs over the month (choose a field from the drop-down menu to see field-level data).
Of important note, BLS routine adjustments for June in three of these key fields of nonprofit activity resulted in significant revisions of our recovery estimates for that month, which are reflected in the June 2021 data for these fields in Figure 2. Most strikingly, BLS revised the total number religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organization jobs in June 2021 upward by 18,200 total jobs; this increased the share of missing jobs recovered in that month from just 3.7% to 14.2%. Similarly, the number of jobs reported by BLS in the education field in June of 2021 increased in these revisions by over 10,000 total jobs, bringing our estimated recovered share of jobs during that month up to 11.6% from the previous estimate of 8.5%. On the other end of the spectrum, a June 2021 downward BLS revision of 7,900 jobs in the social assistance field reduced the share of jobs recovered during that month from a robust 5.1% to just 2.1% in June.
Despite these recent gains, however, as of July 2021 the nonprofit workforce still remained down by nearly 615,000 total jobs compared to its estimated pre-pandemic level, as shown in Figure 3. These lost jobs include 18.5% of all workers in nonprofit arts and entertainment organizations; 8% of those in education; 5% of workers in both religious, grantmaking, and civic associations and in nonprofit social service institutions; and 3.2% of workers in health care institutions.

PART 3 | Months to recovery at recent rates

Following the process developed for our June 2021 report, we have updated our estimates of the likely time to full recovery of nonprofit employment back to pre-pandemic levels to take into account both the June 2021 revisions and the July 2021 gains. To do so, we assumed that the average rate of nonprofit job recovery from January through July 2021 would prevail moving forward. With an estimated 614,866 nonprofit jobs still lost from February 2020 through the end of July, and an average of 49,442 nonprofit jobs recovered per month over this 2021 period, this suggests it would take the sector 12.4 months—or just over 1 year—to return to its pre-COVID level of employment, as shown in Figure 4. This estimate represents a slight improvement over our June projection of 15 months, placing full recovery around July 2022.
Also shown in Figure 5 are the recovery rates of nonprofit employment in the various fields of nonprofit activity using the same approach. However, as reflected in the figure, we are unable to estimate a time-to-full-recovery for the health care field, which has seen an overall recovery of under 5,000 total jobs since January 2021. As it is unclear why this major field of nonprofit activity has seen such anemic gains during this recent period, we have no reliable basis for estimating its future recovery.


July of 2021’s strong job growth, coupled with a significant upward revision for June, saw the most consistent 2-month rate of recovery for the nonprofit workforce since the Summer of 2020. However, with the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases occasioned by the Delta variant and the potential need for increased measures to mitigate the spread of the virus it is possible that this trend will stall or reverse—especially in fields like the arts and education, where capacity limits and shut-downs can have significant impact on employment. It’s important to note that the data here were gathered prior to the current surge in infections and hospitalizations taking place as of this writing. Thus, the next several months will be crucial to understanding how this latest surge will affect employment as a whole and in the nonprofit sector specifically.

Chelsea Newhouse is the Communications Manager for the Center for Civil Society Studies and manages the Center's Nonprofit Economic Data and Philanthropication thru Privatization Projects and the Nonprofit Works Interactive Database. Prior to joining the Center in 2008, she worked for the Johns Hopkins University Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics, the Baltimore Sun, and as a community organizer for Clean Water Action and the Democratic National Committee. She holds a degree in Philosophy from the University of Virginia. Chelsea can be reached at