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Nonprofit Jobs Down 7.4 Percent in Year Since Pandemic

The nonprofit sector lost almost a million jobs during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, with losses in the health care and education fields accounting for almost three out of five job losses.

The Center for Civil Society Studies (CCSS) at Johns Hopkins University has been tracking job loss in the nonprofit sector since the pandemic was declared, estimating job losses based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data and comparing it to pre-pandemic levels of February 2020.

On Friday, the center released its latest report for February, estimating job growth from January to February was 2.8 percet overall, almost 27,000 jobs, and positive in every field but educational services, which fell after a bump in January:

  • Social assistance, +10,563/8.7 percent
  • Health care, +8,644/3.3 percent
  • Arts, entertainment, +5,121/4.0 percent
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, +2,152/2.5 percent
  • Other fields, +2,047/7.2 percent
  • Educational services, -1,703/0.6 percent

“While January’s slight recovery of nonprofit jobs was a marked improvement over December’s additional losses, the nonprofit sector still has a long way to go to rebuild its workforce to pre-pandemic levels,” according to the center.

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The center estimates that more than 926,000 nonprofit jobs have been lost in the past year, down 7.4 percent overall:

  • Health care, -251,751/-3.7 percent
  • Educational services, -292,555/-14.6 percent
  • Arts and entertainment, -123,594/-34.7 percent
  • Social assistance, -115,272/-7.5 percent
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, -82.989/-10.1 percent
  • Other fields, -26,214/-4.7 percent

Health care and educational services have accounted for about 544,306 job losses, almost 59 percent of the overall total.

The center has tracked the ongoing impact of the pandemic on nonprofit employment, estimating nonprofit job losses based on the monthly BLS Employment Situation Report. BLS data showed overall growth of 465,000 private, non-farm jobs nationally during February but nonprofits accounted for only 6 percent of those gains, less than the 10 percent of private jobs they accounted for when the month began, according to the center.

During the first three months of the pandemic in March, April and May, the center estimated that nonprofits had lost 1.64 million of the 12.5 million jobs they accounted for prior to the pandemic. The summer months of June, July and August showed significant shares of the initial job losses recovered before slowing in September. February showed a meager 1.6 percent increase in job recovery for nonprofits since June, with only two fields—social assistance and arts and entertainment—seeing growth that exceeded the previous month’s losses.

At an average of almost 40,000 nonprofit jobs recovered per month, it would take nonprofits almost a full two years to return to pre-COVID levels of employment. Arts and entertainment would take more than two years to recover while religious, grantmaking and civic would take 15 months. Two fields, social assistance and other fields, would take less than 10 months.  Those estimates are based on the average rate of job recovery from July 2020 through February 2021 and assuming those prevail into the foreseeable future.

The only exception is education, which takes into account trends resulting from the Biden Administration’s prioritization of school reopening and a push to speed up vaccinations for education workers. That estimate is an average of two projects: an upper estimate based on average job gains in the field over the full nine-month recovery period of June through February, and a lower estimate based on just those first three months of June, July and August, which saw the first truncated effort to open schools. The average “yielded an admittedly optimistic estimate of 12 months,” according to the center, until nonprofit education employment returns to pre-pandemic levels.

This article first ran at The NonProfit Times. It is reprinted with permission.

Mark Hrywna

Senior Editor, NonProfit Times. Journalist currently covering various aspects of the nonprofit sector, including fundraising, finance, technology and more for The NonProfit Times, a national trade publication.