Nonprofit Organizations

Hundreds of Nonprofits and Scholars Call for Regular Data

August 9, 2021  • Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation

HUNDREDS OF NONPROFITS AND RESEARCHERS SIGN LETTER TO DEPARTMENT OF LABOR SECRETARY WALSH:

EFFECTIVE JOBS RECOVERY REQUIRES REGULAR DATA ON THE NATION’S THIRD LARGEST PRIVATE EMPLOYER 

Over 250 national, state, and local nonprofits and individual researchers submitted a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Martin Walsh, on Friday, August 6, 2021, requesting the release of quarterly data on nonprofit employment and wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As the letter states:

“It is fundamentally unfair for the BLS to give regular quarterly workforce data to industries like goat farming and limousine service, while the nonprofit sector—representing more than 10% of the nation’s private workforce—is required to either purchase this information or wait years for it.”

Signatories range from Americans for the Arts and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to the YMCA and YWCA, nonprofit state associations from Colorado to Wyoming, and philanthropy groups, like the Council on Foundations. Dozens of nonprofit researchers also signed the letter, which was submitted as a set of comments on the Department of Labor’s strategic planning efforts for 2022–2026. 

The letter was a joint effort of the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Data Project, Independent Sector, National Council of Nonprofits, and Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

The letter argues that the global economic and health crisis caused by COVID-19 underscored the need for regular nonprofit employment information. Even though the nonprofit sector employs the third largest workforce of any U.S. industry, there were no official statistics on the sector at the height of the pandemic. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University were forced to develop uncertain projections using data from 2017, which is the last year BLS released official nonprofit statistics. At one point, the sector was estimated to have lost over 1.6 million jobs. It would be far more effective, efficient, and accurate if BLS could directly release data about nonprofit job losses that could help policymakers make informed decisions and help the sector to recover.

“We hope in the Department of Labor’s efforts to produce gold-standard statistics, they will see that keeping regular data on the nonprofit sector is part and parcel of that,” Cinthia Schuman Ottinger of the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation told the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “How can you have gold-standard statistics on the state of the nation’s workforce when you’re not including regular information on the third-largest private industry?”

For more information, contact Cinthia Schuman Ottinger at [email protected].