COVID-19 JOBS UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 2020: Nonprofit Employment Recovery Slowed Significantly in September, Still Down By Nearly 8%

By on October 21, 2020

OCTOBER 21, 2020
For immediate release
Contact: Chelsea Newhouse
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As part of our continued effort to track the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on nonprofit employment, we have analyzed data from the latest BLS Employment Situation Report to estimate nonprofit job losses through September 2020.
How did nonprofits fare in September?
Unfortunately, the month of September showed only a modest 2% recovery of nonprofit jobs compared to the situation we reported in August.1August estimates have been adjusted to reflect BLS revisions adding 145,000 more jobs in July and August than previously reported. 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: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics September Employment Situation Report. The only major field that enjoyed a rebound of more than 10% overall was social assistance at 12.8%. What is more, September brought significant additional losses in the key field of education totaling nearly 50,000 jobs—a drop of 24% from August employment levels, as shown in Figure 1.


As of September 2020, the nonprofit workforce remained down by nearly 1 million jobs compared to its pre-pandemic February levels. Especially still hard hit are nonprofit jobs in many of the key service fields critical to the COVID response, including: nearly 300,000 jobs lost in health care; over a quarter million jobs lost in private education; more than 150,000 jobs lost in the social services field; and almost 125,000 jobs lost in the arts, as shown in Figure 2.


As a result, as shown in Figure 3, the total nonprofit workforce at the end of September 2020 thus remained down by 7.6% from its pre-March 2020 level. Particularly hard-hit were jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation (-35%); education (-12.6%); other services, which includes foundations and civic, social, and advocacy organizations (-11.2%), and social services (-10%).


A steadily slowing recovery—June through September
The slowdown in job recovery reflected in the September data is unfortunately not an outlier. To the contrary, it continues a slowdown in the recovery that has been underway for several months, especially in fields in which nonprofits are particularly active. Thus, while over 24% of the estimated 1.6 million total pandemic-related nonprofit job losses2See: Salamon & Newhouse, Johns Hopkins 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies), June 2020. were recovered in June, the rate of recovery slipped to 9% in July, to barely 7% in August, and to only 1.1% in September, as shown in Figure 4.


As shown in Figure 5, moreover, this progressive slowdown in the recovery was evident in almost every field.


With discouraging evidence that the COVID virus is far from tamed and impediments to the return to normalcy in fields in which nonprofits are active likely to remain in place, the estimated 1 million nonprofit workers who have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic may therefore not regain them anytime soon. With Congress and the administration unable to come to agreement on a meaningful new recovery package, it will be up to strained charities to help the nonprofit workforce cope with the pressures its members are under—a challenge that at least some communities have heroically undertaken. In the meantime, we can hope that the imminent election will yield a set of policy measures that can tame the pandemic and thereby open the way to reviving the economy and the workplace for our country’s third largest workforce. Beyond that, it will be more vital than ever to keep a close eye on the status of the nonprofit workforce and ensure that these critical organizations and the workers who allow them to operate receive the support they need and deserve.



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