Nonprofit Jobs Jumping, Up 8.9%
Nonprofit Jobs Jumping, Up 8.9%

Nonprofit jobs saw their strongest rebound in six months, with almost 81,000 jobs recovered in March. That’s a jump of 8.9% —  the largest monthly rebound in nonprofit jobs since August — from more than 900,000 jobs still lost as of February.

“This recovery will need to be sustained for a significant period to restore nonprofit employment to pre-pandemic levels. Whether this will be possible in light of the appearance of new, and potentially more lethal, virus strains, remains far from clear as of this writing,” according to authors of The Center for Civil Society Studies (CCSS) at Johns Hopkins University’s monthly estimate of nonprofit job recovery.

The Baltimore-based CCSS has been tracking the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on nonprofit employment with estimates of COVID-induced nonprofit job losses as reflected in the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Situation Report.

BLS data showed strong overall growth of 916,000 private, non-farm jobs nationwide during March, reflecting the accelerated pace of re-openings in several states. All nonprofit fields gained during March, led by education, which accounted for more than half of the overall 80,890 job gains:

  • Educational services,  +16.2% / 45,685 jobs
  • Social assistance, +8.9% / 10,235
  • Arts, entertainment and recreation, +8.1% / 9,994
  • Other fields, +7.8% / 2,048
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, +3.9% / 3,108
  • Health care, +2.1% / 4,996

Despite the gains, the nonprofit workforce remained down by nearly 830,000 jobs — a 6.6% decline — compared to pre-pandemic levels of February 2020:

  • Arts, entertainment and recreation, -31.8% / 113,337
  • Educational services, -11.8% / 235,732
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, -9.8% / 80,180
  • Social assistance, -6.9% / 104,873
  • Other fields, -4.4%, 24,166
  • Health care, -3.6%, 242,716

During the first three months of the pandemic, from March through May 2020, nonprofits lost an estimated 1.64 million of the 12.5 million jobs in the nonprofit sector. After rebounding during the summer, nonprofit employment improvement slowed significantly this past fall, with an increase of only 4.1% overall from September to February. About 4.9% of initial job losses were recovered in March, in what the center described as “a promising sign, but one that will need to be sustained in future months to restore nonprofit employment to pre-pandemic levels.”

The center estimates that it would take 18 months to return to pre-COVID levels of employment, at an average of 46,019 nonprofit jobs recovered per month to recover the 828,038 jobs still lost at the end of March. That estimate is an improvement of nearly six months over February’s estimate. The estimate assumes an average rate of nonprofit job recovery from July through March that would continue into the foreseeable future. Three subsectors would recover within a year: educational services, 8.5 months; social assistance, 8.8 months, and other fields, 9 months.

“In light of the Biden Administration’s prioritization of school reopening and its push to speed up vaccinations for education workers, we anticipated that this previous record of exceedingly slow improvement in this field would likely turn around quickly,” according to CCSS. “Given that this timeframe roughly corresponds to the opening of the 2021-22 school year, we believe that this estimate is the most realistic expectation for this sector, barring major setbacks in gaining control of the pandemic.”