More than 1.64 million nonprofit workers in the United States lost their jobs during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society finds.
The 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report (25 pages, PDF) estimates that between the beginning of March and the end of May, 13 percent of all nonprofit-sector jobs were lost, accounting for 8.8 percent of all non-public-sector job losses. Nonprofits in human services fields such as health care, where 574,530 jobs were lost, accounting for 43 percent of job losses, and social assistance, with 630,150 jobs lost, accounting for 35 percent of job losses, were particularly hard hit. Other fields in which job losses made up a significant share of non-public-sector job losses include education (70.9 percent), performing arts (57 percent), museums (86.5 percent), and religious, grantmaking, civic, and professional (59.8 percent).
Further complicating the situation, the report notes, is the fact that while 98 percent of all nonprofits meet the "small business" criteria for the federal government's Paycheck Protection and Main Street Lending Programs, they have faced challenges in accessing support, while federal agencies have not shared information on the support provided to nonprofits.
Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual report also found that between 2007 and 2017, the number of jobs created by U.S. nonprofits grew 18.6 percent — three times faster than the rate for-profit businesses; that nonprofits generated the third largest payroll income of any U.S. industry in 2017; and that average weekly wages at nonprofits are nearly equal to those at for-profits overall and much higher in fields such as education, health care, and social assistance. The report also notes that government incentives have led for-profit firms to make inroads into fields previously dominated by nonprofits, including social assistance, nursing homes, and hospital care — putting the sector under pressure even before the pandemic hit.
"While competition certainly has its place in this field as in many others, the competition needs to be on a level playing field," the report's authors write, "particularly given the special contributions that nonprofits have been found to make in devising innovative forms of service, serving more disadvantaged clients, and staying the course even when economic circumstances turn sour."