July 13, 2021
For immediate release
Contact: Chelsea Newhouse
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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 June 2021, as reflected in the June BLS Employment Situation Report. Importantly for the nonprofit sector, two of the strongest gains over the month were recorded in the education field and the arts. However, the crucial health care field saw a significant loss of jobs during June.
Part 1 of this report spotlights the changes in nonprofit employment over the most recent month. Part 2 then details the recovery of nonprofit jobs over the past several months and notes where that leaves nonprofit employment as of June 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.
As shown in Figure 1, June saw a sizable gain of more than 60,000 nonprofit jobs compared to May 2021’s total—representing a gain of over 8% of the estimated 745,000 jobs still lost as of May.1Our May update found that, as of May 2021, nonprofit job losses stood at an estimated 732,869. However, BLS revisions for April and May resulted in a new estimate for May, 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 June Employment Situation Report (6/4/2021).
The educational field continued its recent strong recovery trend, adding over 27,000 jobs, an increase of 12.2% during the month. Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations grew by 15% during the month, adding nearly 11,000 total jobs. Also notable was the similar increase in nonprofit jobs in the social assistance field, which added over 13,000 jobs in June. Nonprofit health care institutions, meanwhile, lost 5,300 jobs during June—a 2.3% decline from staffing levels seen on May 2021. Most of these jobs were in hospitals (4,610) and residential care facilities (3,379), partially offset by small gains in various ambulatory health care and other sub-fields.
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, with the sector 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 has seen a stronger overall recovery, with March, April, and May making up an additional nearly 10% of the losses and June’s 60,000 recovered jobs representing an additional nearly 4% recovery of the estimated 1.64 million jobs lost during the first three months of the pandemic. Thus, over the recovery period (i.e., June 2020-June 2021), nonprofits have recovered a combined 58.3% of the jobs lost as of May 2020, while leaving just over 40% of the losses unrecovered.
As also shown in Figure 2, all but one field of nonprofit activity saw gains over the pandemic lows in June 2021, although the rate of recovery varied significantly by field. The largest gains were seen in the educational field, which regained 8.5% of its initial losses during the month. Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations rebounded from a weak May to regain 7.4% of their initial losses in June 2021; and the arts, entertainment, and recreation field continued a recent trend of relatively strong growth, reversing 5.5% of its pandemic workforce losses. During the past 3 months, this latter hard-hit field has thus recovered 18.6% of the jobs it lost during the onset of the pandemic. In addition, social assistance organizations recovered over 5% of previously lost jobs over the month—a significant improvement of the recovery seen in May. Not so positive, however, is the rather sizable loss of an additional 5,300 health care institution jobs during June of 2021, leaving jobs in this crucial field a 1% step back from the jobs they had recovered since May 2020. (choose a field from the drop-down menu to see field-level data).
Despite this recent improvement, as of June 2021 the nonprofit workforce still remained down by nearly 700,000 total jobs compared to its estimated pre-pandemic level, as shown in Figure 3. These lost jobs include 21% of all pre-pandemic workers in nonprofit arts and entertainment organizations; 10% of those in education; 7.4% of workers in religious, grantmaking, and civic associations; 5% of workers in nonprofit social service institutions; and 3.5% of workers in health care institutions.
With this report, we have updated our estimates of the likely time to full recovery of nonprofit employment back to pre-pandemic levels. Given that we are now 6 months into the concerted national vaccination campaign and resulting relaxation of restrictions on business and public activity, we revised our method for estimating the time to recovery. To do so, we assumed that the average rate of nonprofit job recovery over this period (i.e., January through June 2021) would prevail moving forward. With an estimated 684,869 nonprofit jobs still lost from February 2020 through the end of June, and an average of 46,443 nonprofit jobs recovered per month over this 2021 period, this suggests it would take the sector 15 months—or 1.2 years—to return to its pre-COVID level of employment, as shown in Figure 4. This estimate is consistent with our May projection in placing full recovery around September 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 decline in jobs since January 2021. As it is unclear why this major field of nonprofit activity has seen losses during this recent period, we have no reliable basis for estimating its future recovery.
June of 2021 continued an overall positive, yet inconsistent, trend toward an accelerated recovery of nonprofit jobs that started in January 2021. While this is a hopeful sign, the volatility in the health care sector—the single largest field of nonprofit employment—makes it difficult to predict when nonprofit jobs will return to their pre-pandemic levels. However, recent strong recoveries seen in previously hard-hit fields such as education and the arts provide a view of a possible way forward for at least these crucial sectors of the U.S. nonprofit portion of the economy as a sizable proportion of states and localities that have achieved high rates of vaccination continue to be empowered to relax restrictions on economic and social activity. The remaining “wild card” is the appearance of the new variant that is spreading rapidly in states where vaccination rates remain low. Our estimates of time to recovery do not fully take account of the impact of this new development.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.