Report: Nonprofits make up America’s third largest workforce

Written on May 08, 2018

Employment in America’s nonprofit organizations continued to gain ground on other major industries in recent years according to a new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

Based on projections from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, a new report, Nonprofits: America’s Third Largest Workforce, reveals that as of 2015, America’s nonprofit sector:

  • Has the third largest workforce. The U.S. nonprofit workforce ranks third in size among the 18 major U.S. industries, behind only retail trade and manufacturing.
  • Outdistances manufacturing. In 24 states and DC, nonprofits actually employ more workers than all the branches of manufacturing combined.
  • Is a “major” industry in most states. Economists consider any industry that accounts for 5% of a country’s workforce to be a “major” industry. By this measure, the nonprofit sector is a major industry in all but one of the nation’s states and District of Columbia. And in more than half of the states, the nonprofit sector accounts for more than 10% of private employment.
  • Is a major industry at the county level. Data available at the county level reveal that, by this same measure, nonprofits constitute a “major” industry in 1,459 (77%) out of the nearly 1,900 U.S. counties on which data are available. And in 856 (45%) of these counties, nonprofits account for 10% or more of the private workforce.
  • Is a diverse industry with a broad array of services. The health field - embracing hospitals, clinics, and home health services—accounts for 54% of all nonprofit employment, but nonprofits are active in a wide assortment of other fields as well, from education and social services to arts and culture.
  • Is a dynamic presence. Nonprofits continued to gain ground as employers in nine industries between 2012 and 2015: manufacturing, wholesale trade, finance and insurance, and a collection of six smaller industries.

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