COVID-19 JOBS UPDATE, AUGUST 2020: Nonprofit Jobs Still Down By Nearly 1 Million Despite a Partial Recovery

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Contact: Chelsea Newhouse
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Despite a partial recovery of the U.S. economy from the recent pandemic, new data released today by the U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics suggests that nonprofit employment is still down by an estimated nearly 1 million jobs compared to where it stood in February 2020, before the coronavirus hit.
As shown in Figure 1, 32% of these losses were in the health care field, 22% in education, and 19% in social assistance, all of these crucial fields in the coronavirus and economic recovery efforts.

As a share of their 12.5 million workers as of 2017—the latest year for which data are available—nonprofit jobs were thus still down 8% overall through the end of August 2020. But in some especially critical fields, as shown in Figure 2, the estimated shrinkage remained more severe—down nearly 11% in educational services, nearly 12% in social assistance, and nearly 38% in arts and recreation.

The August data did suggest that nonprofits benefited to some degree from the partial recovery of the U.S. economy as of the end of August, though this benefit apparently varied substantially by field, with the bulk concentrated in the health care field, while the recovery of education and social service jobs was considerably slower, as shown in Figure 3.

Given the critical role that social services play in the ability of citizens to return to work, we looked a little more closely at where the limited recovery of social service jobs occurred, and where it did not. As shown in Figure 4, the good news is that the vast majority of jobs lost in community food, housing, and relief services were restored as of the end of August, though it seems unlikely that this was sufficient to meet the enormous expansion in need for these services that the pandemic-induced economic collapse has produced. By contrast, however, less than 6% of the nonprofit jobs lost in day care services have been restored, suggesting a serious obstacle limiting parents’ ability to return to work with schools still unable to open safely in numerous locales.


As in our previous estimates of nonprofit employment losses resulting from the pandemic, the data reported here assume that nonprofit job losses over the 6-month period from March through August 2020 were 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. Such estimates have been necessary because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not broken down its monthly estimates of job losses by the nonprofit vs. for-profit status of the workplaces. In addition, the BLS has so far not committed to updating its overall very helpful estimates of nonprofit employment more frequently than once every five years, leaving us with 2017 data as the most recent available and no update in prospect before 2024.
If you find this analysis useful, you can submit a comment to the BLS, asking that these data be released on at least a bi-annual basis, and that a special release of 2019 and 2020 data be expedited to allow for a better understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis the 3rd largest workforce of any industry in the U.S.

Chelsea Newhouse

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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