Nonprofits Are America's Third Largest Employer, Study Finds

Nonprofits Are America's Third Largest Employer, Study Finds

The U.S. nonprofit sector employs 11.9 million people, putting it third out of eighteen major sectors as an employer of American workers, a report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society finds.

Based on 2015 nonprofit employment data projections developed by the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project, the report, Nonprofits: America's Third Largest Workforce (9 pages, PDF), found that the nonprofit sector ranks behind only retail trade (15.7 million) and manufacturing (12.3 million) as an employer of American workers. Moreover, in nearly half of all states the nonprofit workforce outnumbers the manufacturing workforce, while it accounts for more than 5 percent of the overall workforce in every state except Nevada. At the local level, the study found that the nonprofit workforce made up at least 5 percent of the workforce in 80 percent of all counties for which data was available and accounted for at least 10 percent in 45 percent of counties.

According to the report, nonprofits in health-related fields — including hospitals, clinics, and home health services — employed more than half (54.3 percent) of all nonprofit workers nationally, followed by education (15.6 percent), social assistance (12.1 percent), other services (6.7 percent), arts and recreation (2.5 percent), and professional services (2.2 percent). The study also found that between 2012 and 2015 the nonprofit sector gained ground on nine industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, finance, and insurance.

"[T]he story of nonprofit employment is a powerful one, demonstrating that this sector is every bit as crucial a component of the economic life in this country as it is of the social, cultural, health, and educational life," wrote Lester M. Salamon, author of the report. "This is an important message for the nonprofit sector to recognize about itself, and for it to carry into discussions with policy officials and into the consciousness of voters and citizens."

Lester M. Salamon. "Nonprofits: America's Third Largest Workforce." Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies 05/02/2018. "New Report: Nonprofits — America’s Third Largest Workforce." Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies Press Release 05/02/2018.