NEWS RELEASE: Not just an urban phenomenon—New data on the nonprofit workforce

UPDATED September 6, 2019
Media contact: Chelsea Newhouse
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Common wisdom holds that nonprofit employment is essentially an urban phenomenon. But new data generated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics using a technique developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies suggests that this may not be universally true.
To be sure, 88% of U.S. nonprofit employment is located in metropolitan areas, but so is 87% of for-profit employment. So, too, the nonprofit share of private jobs in metropolitan areas exceeds that in the nation as a whole—but only slightly (10.4% vs. 10.2%).
More revealingly, nearly half (48%) of the 380 metropolitan areas for which data are newly available have nonprofit shares of their private employment below the 10.2% U.S. average as shown in Figure 1. And at 7.1%, the average share of private employment that nonprofits account for in these 48% of metropolitan regions is well below the 8.7% average in the nation’s non-metropolitan areas.

These and other findings of the latest BLS data will be available shortly in the Johns Hopkins 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report. Among these other findings are the following:

  • Nonprofit employment has continued its striking record of growth, expanding by 2% between 2016 and 2017, compared to 1.5% growth in for-profit employment, as shown in Figure 2.

  • Even with government employment included, the nonprofit workforce edged out the total workforce in all fields of manufacturing in 2017, making it the third largest workforce of all U.S. industries, behind only retail trade and food and accommodations, as shown in Figure 3.

  • The nonprofit advantage over manufacturing is even more pronounced when we focus only on private employment, as shown in Figure 4.

  • Nonprofit average wages exceed those of for-profit firms in many fields in which both are involved—including social assistance, nursing and residential care, hospitals, ambulatory health, and higher education, as shown in Figure 5.

    The full BLS nonprofit data files for 2013-2017 can be downloaded here. An in-depth analysis of the 2017 and 2013-2017 Metro Statistical Area BLS data will be available from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies in Spring 2020 at The 2017 data—including MSA level and comparative industry data—will be available for users eager to examine particular regions or fields through the Center’s Nonprofit Works: An Interactive Database on the Nonprofit Economy in early 2020.
    Note: This post was updated on September 6, 2019 to include Figure 4 showing nonprofit employment vs. private employment in other industries and to clarify that Figure 3 reflects nonprofit employment vs. total employment, including public/government workers.



    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 including how employment, wages, and finances have changed over time and in relation to other industries. Moreover, the project is able to analyze these data at the national, regional, state, and local levels, and to focus on particular subsectors—such as nursing homes, hospitals, home health centers, education, social services, and the arts. A collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, state employment security agencies, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and state nonprofit associations, the NED Project has thus far produced over 40 state, county, and regional Nonprofit Economic Data Bulletins since its founding in 2001, yielding a vital resource for understanding the nonprofit sector.



    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