County-Level Nonprofit Employment Data

Treasure Trove of Nonprofit Employment Data Released by Bureau of Labor Statistics

National, State, County and MSA-Level Information Updated for Years 2017, 2015, 2014, and 2013

The Nonprofit Data Project of the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation (PSI) is thrilled to share a major release of nonprofit employment and wage data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

According to the research, in 2017, the nonprofit sector’s 501(c)(3) establishments accounted for 12.5 million in employment (10.2% of the private sector workforce) and $670 billion in total annual wages (9.9% of private sector wages).

The update is highly significant. In addition to 2017 data, statistics from years 2013, 2014, and 2015 are included. National, state (including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), county and even MSA (metropolitan statistical area) figures are provided for these years! BLS releases data on 501(c)(3)s “on a research basis,” which means future releases will be based on demand and availability of resources. If these data are useful to you, and you would like to see updates going forward, please be sure to let BLS know via their information line.

Data from 2016 was previously released last August, thanks to support from Johns Hopkins University with grant funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Indeed, the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University originally worked with BLS to create an innovative method for identifying nonprofit employment, which merges the Bureau’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages with information from the IRS. Using this approach, BLS started generating its own nonprofit data in 2014, with a major release of 2007-2012 data.

PSI’s Nonprofit Data Project convenes leading researchers, data experts and others to advance the state of the nation’s nonprofit data. In addition to monitoring BLS and other sources of nonprofit statistics, it serves as a leading voice for searchable Form 990 data that can be used to advance nonprofit knowledge and practice. The project works closely with its partners: Johns Hopkins University, Candid, Urban Institute, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and many others.

With a workforce that is one of the largest in the country—almost edging out manufacturing jobs in 2016, according to “The 2019 Nonprofit Employment Report” by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies—clearly nonprofit employment and wage data are needed on a regular basis. The Nonprofit Data Project is grateful to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for its important work and hopes that this is a sign of more data to come.

Cinthia Schuman Ottinger
The Aspen Institute
2300 N Street, NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20037

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