COVID-19 JOBS UPDATE, DECEMBER 2021 | A final update on the nonprofit jobs recovery

January 11, 2022
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 December 2021, as reflected in the December BLS Employment Situation Report.

Part 1 of this report spotlights the changes in nonprofit employment in December 2021. Part 2 then details the recovery of nonprofit jobs over the past several months and notes where that left nonprofit employment as of December 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 based on the recovery record during 2021.

PART 1 | Change in Nonprofit Jobs in December 2021

As shown in Figure 1, nonprofits added an estimated 9,246 jobs during December, reducing the total lost jobs by 2% of the 468,116 jobs still estimated to be missing as of November.1Our November update found that, as of November 2021, nonprofit job losses stood at an estimated 485,190. However, BLS routine revisions for October and November resulted in this new estimate, 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 December Employment Situation Report (1/7/2021).

Of the major fields of nonprofit activity that we track, religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations recovered the highest share of their missing jobs, with 2,869 added workers representing an 8% reduction in the number of jobs missing in these institutions as of the previous month. Social assistance organizations, meanwhile, added the largest absolute number of jobs in December, hiring nearly 3,800 workers during the month and reducing the number of jobs missing in this field by 7%.

Also in the positive column were educational institutions, which added nearly 2,500 workers in December, or just over 2% of the jobs still missing as of November. Arts, entertainment, and recreational organizations, meanwhile, were estimated to have added just 100 total workers in December, or just 0.2% of the still-missing jobs in this field.

Nonprofit health care institutions, however, took a small step backward in December shedding an additional 1,300 jobs overall, increasing the number of missing workers in the overall health care field by 0.7% as of the end of the year. Job losses during December in hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities—though these losses were partially offset by gains in ambulatory health care services.

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

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. 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 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 40.6% of these initial 1.64 million lost nonprofit jobs were recovered. Beginning in September 2020, however, this recovery slowed significantly, with final four months of 2020 (September -December) seeing a combined recovery of just 1% of the initial lost jobs overall—an average of just 0.2% per month. During the first 3 quarters of 2021, nonprofits enjoyed a more consistent recovery trend, regaining a combined 26% of initial estimated job losses, or an average of nearly 3% per month.

Unfortunately, this trend was not sustained in the final quarter of the year, despite a relatively strong showing in October 2021. Thus, with December’s overall recovery of just 0.6%, the final quarter of 2021 saw a combined recovery of just 4.5% of initial estimated jobs lost, for a monthly average of just 1.5%—or half the average rate seen during the previous three quarters. Thus, as of the end of 2021, nonprofits have recovered approximately 72.1% of the jobs estimated to have been lost as of May 2020.

As also shown in Figure 2, all but one major field of nonprofit activity recorded a positive recovery during December 2021. Among the major fields of nonprofit activity, the largest recovery was in religious, grantmaking, civil, and professional associations, which regained nearly 2% of their initial job losses during the month. Nonprofits operating in social assistance, arts, entertainment, and recreation, and health care, all saw small—but still positive—recoveries of 0.6%, 0.4%, and 0.2% respectively.

The sole exception was nonprofit educational institutions, which experienced fresh losses, setting the jobs recovery in this field back by 0.5% in December (choose a field from the drop-down menu to see field-level data).

Over the full recovery period from June 2020 through December 2021, educational institutions have recovered approximately 65% of the estimated 323,000 jobs lost as of May 2020; health care institutions have recovered 64% of their estimated 547,500 early job losses; social assistance organizations have just over 80% of their initial estimated 259,000 job losses; arts, entertainment, and recreational institutions recovered approximately 78% of the initial 206,000 lost jobs; and religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations have recovered 77.5% of their estimated 147,000 job losses.

As shown in Figure 3, the nonprofit workforce as of December 2021 is estimated to be approximately 459,000 jobs—or 3.7%—smaller vs. its estimated pre-pandemic level. These still-missing jobs include 12.5% of pre-pandemic workers in nonprofit arts and entertainment organizations; 5.6% of those in education; 4% of workers in religious, grantmaking, and civic associations; and 3.4% of workers in nonprofit social service institutions.

Of particular note, while the overall nonprofit health care workforce remained down by over 196,000 estimated jobs, or 2.9% of the pre-pandemic nonprofit health care workforce, over 144,000—or nearly three-quarters of these missing jobs—were identified as being in nursing and residential care facilities.

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 do so, we assumed that the average rate of nonprofit job recovery from January through December 2021 will prevail moving forward. With an estimated 458,871 nonprofit jobs still missing as of the end of December, and an average of 41,841 nonprofit jobs recovered per month during 2021, this suggests it would take the sector 11 months to return to its pre-COVID level of employment, as shown in Figure 4.

Also shown in Figure 4 are the projected times to full recovery 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 an average of just 2,300 jobs recovered per month over this period, largely due to continued losses in the nursing and residential care field. As such, we have no reliable basis for estimating its future recovery.


As the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic drew to a close, the nonprofit sector’s resilience and the overall economic recovery found this crucial set of institutions in a significantly better place than where they stood at the beginning of 2021. Given the twin challenges of the unpredictable nature of the on-going pandemic and significant difficulties in hiring now coming to light make it difficult to predict what the future holds for the nation’s third largest employer as we enter into 2022. With nearly a half million of the sector’s pre-pandemic workers still missing from the workforce, nonprofits have a steep hill to climb as they continue their critical work to assist and support the recovery of their communities.

This marks the 18th and final report issued by the Center documenting our estimates of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nonprofit workforce. While we will no longer be issuing monthly reports, we have created a new summary data dashboard which will update as new data become available.

We undertook these estimates in an attempt to provide baseline against which to measure the response of the sector once updated official BLS nonprofit employment data are released available, to surface areas of immediate concern, and to provide the sector and its advocates with a the tools needed to push for interventions needed to support this crucial set of institutions. It is our sincere hope that these reports have been of use in these endeavors.


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