As of the latest data available, nonprofit organizations employed the third largest workforce in the U.S. economy, overtaking manufacturing by nearly 100,000 workers nation-wide in 2017. Indeed, the only industries employing more workers than the nonprofit sector in 2017 were retail trade and restaurants and hotels.
However, as is the case with all sectors of the economy, nonprofits face challenging times as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The precise scale of these losses is not yet clearly apparent, however, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics has not updated its 2017 nonprofit employment data. We therefore do not know whether nonprofits managed to repeat their prior documented practice of resisting the sharper declines in employment that for-profit employers, even in the same service fields, experienced during previous recessions.
However, in an attempt to provide baseline against which to measure the response of the sector once updated data become available, and to surface areas of concern, the Johns Hopkins Economic Data Project has undertaken a series of estimates of the projected impact of COVID-related job losses on nonprofits, beginning with an estimated 1.6 million job losses from March through May included in our 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report. To do so, we took the conservative approach of assuming that nonprofit job losses have been roughly proportional to the share of nonprofit jobs in the various fields in which nonprofits were active as of the latest date for which such data are available, i.e., 2017. We then applied these percentages to the changes in employment as reported in monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Reports.
Collected below are links to our estimates, including the initial estimates from the 2020 Nonprofit Employment report and updates beginning in August. We will continue to provide these reports as the crisis unfolds.