The 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report: The 3rd largest employer faces the COVID-19 crisis

Media contact: Chelsea Newhouse
A new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies finds that U.S. nonprofits maintained their position as the third largest employer in the U.S. economy, overtaking manufacturing by nearly 100,000 workers nation-wide in 2017, and exceeding that industry in 28 states and territories across the U.S. 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, with projected job losses of over 1.6 million workers between March and May of 2020—all at a time when demand for their services is growing. Complicating the situation further is the fact that although 98 percent of all nonprofit establishments fit the criteria for access to the federal government’s recent Paycheck Protection and Main Street Lending Programs as “small businesses,” well-documented challenges have faced nonprofits in accessing this government support, and federal agencies have so far failed to provide information on the extent to which such support has flowed to nonprofit organizations.
These are just some of the major conclusions emerging from the 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report. Drawing on the rich body of data generated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, the Hopkins report sheds important new light on recent nonprofit employment dynamics. Among the findings:

  • Between 2007 and 2017, the number of jobs created by U.S. nonprofits grew by 18.6%—three times faster than the country’s for-profit businesses over the same period.
  • Nonprofits also generated the third largest payroll income of any U.S. industry in 2017, behind only manufacturing and professional services.
  • Contrary to popular belief, nonprofit average weekly wages per employee are nearly equal to those paid by for-profits overall—and are actually much higher than for-profit wages in many of the key nonprofit fields.
  • But nonprofit successes—and government policies—have attracted for-profit firms into nonprofit fields, leading to increasing declines in nonprofit market shares in fields as diverse as social assistance, nursing homes, and hospital care.

The data presented here can thus be of crucial importance to sector leaders, government policymakers, the media, and citizens at large in comprehending the vital role that the nonprofit sector plays in the social and economic wellbeing of the nation; the way in which COVID-19 is impacting this sector; and the challenges that nonprofits have encountered in gaining access to the financial support that government policy has theoretically opened up to the hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations and millions of nonprofit employees that qualify as “small businesses” under the recent federal assistance programs.
See the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies’ 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report for further information on these and other current features of nonprofit employment and wages, including:

  • Nonprofit share of private employment by state and territory.
  • Nonprofit employment and wages compared to the largest for-profit industries.
  • Nonprofit employment compared to manufacturing employment by state and territory.
  • Nonprofit share of private employment in major fields of activity.
  • Nonprofit vs. for-profit average weekly wages by field.
  • Nonprofit employment growth by state and territory.
  • Nonprofit vs. for-profit growth and market share by field between 2007-2017.
  • Estimated nonprofit job losses by field due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Nonprofit eligibility for the Federal COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program based on the 500-employee limit imposed on that assistance.

The 2020 Nonprofit Employment report is available for download now. Our accompanying interactive data dashboard provides access to state-level data on nonprofit share of 2017 private employment overall, by field, and as a share of manufacturing employment; employment changes between 2007 and 2017; and nonprofit average weekly wages compared to wages in the for-profits operating in the same fields.

• Click here to download the full report •


Updated June 24 to reflect the availability of the data dashboard


About the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies | email
The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies is a leading source of ground-breaking research and knowledge about the nonprofit sector, social investing, and the tools of government. Working in collaboration with governments, international organizations, investment innovators, and colleagues around the world, the Center encourages the use of this knowledge to strengthen and mobilize the capabilities and resources of the public, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors to address the complex problems that face the world today. The Center conducts research and educational programs that seek to improve current understanding, analyze emerging trends, and promote promising innovations in the ways that government, civil society, and business can collaborate to address social and environmental challenges.
About the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project (NED) | link
Nonprofit organizations are facing increased pressures in states and localities throughout the United States, but the nonprofit sector’s ability to respond to these pressures has been limited by a lack of timely information about how prevailing economic realities are affecting the sector. The Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project (NED) is helping to tackle this problem by charting economic trends in the nonprofit sector, and producing cutting-edge reports on key components of the nonprofit economy in regions and states across the country. Tapping a wide assortment of the best data sources available, the Center’s NED reports cover nonprofit employment, revenues, expenditures, assets, philanthropic resources, and volunteering for the sector as a whole and in particular fields, such as health, education, social services, and arts and culture. They also document changes over time and reveal how nonprofits stack up in comparison to for-profit organizations overall and in key nonprofit fields. Over 40 such reports have been prepared, making it possible for nonprofit leaders to put their sector on the mental maps of policy-makers, the media, the sector itself, and citizens at large. For information on how you can commission a report on the nonprofit economy in your state or region, contact


Media contact: Chelsea Newhouse

Chelsea Newhouse

View posts by Chelsea Newhouse
Chelsea Newhouse served as the Center's Communications Manager and managed the Nonprofit Economic Data and Philanthropication thru Privatization Projects. 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. Following the Center's closing, Chelsea now serves as Project Manager at the East-West Management Institute, where she continues to work on the Philanthropication thru Privatization Project and other civil society development initiatives around the world. Chelsea can be reached at