Critical data and evidence gaps exist in measuring and evaluating the nonprofit sector’s economic and employment contributions to the American economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides quarterly data on employment and wages for industries, including goat farming and limousine service, but not for the nonprofit sector – the nation’s third-largest workforce.
At more than 10% of the private workforce, the nonprofit sector is a major job creator and component of local economies, outpacing all branches of manufacturing, all construction, and all finance and insurance. The depth and breadth of nonprofits’ economic role often surprises policymakers and the public, in part due to the lack of timely information about the sector.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) similarly produces statistics that take a close look at many parts of the economy: outdoor recreation, health care, arts and culture, and more. These so-called “satellite accounts” are meant to allow for in-depth analysis and increased understanding by policymakers, organizations, and researchers. Unfortunately, it does not currently produce a satellite account on the nonprofit sector and its measurement of nonprofit contribution to GDP likely misses important organizations and activities.
What’s at Risk?
In the absence of regular government economic data, nonprofits must divert valuable resources to gather replacement data and are forced to rely on estimates and uncertain projections. Regular access to economic data from BLS and BEA will help the sector and individual charities demonstrate our impact and advocate for policies that strengthen the sector.
As we’ve seen too many times before, nonprofits are often an after-thought, and our workforce is regularly overlooked in policy decisions. Presenting policymakers with regular nonprofit economic data, alongside preexisting data of other industries, can ensure the sector is not forgotten.
Independent Sector calls for BLS to provide quarterly data on nonprofit employment and wages broken down by state, county, and metropolitan area, and to be segmented by field and major subfields. In 2021, Independent Sector helped organize and, with over 250 others, signed a letter to the Department of Labor advocating accurate and accessible data on nonprofit employment and wage trends.
Establish a Satellite Account on the Nonprofit Sector within BEA
Independent Sector calls for the Bureau of Economic Analysis to establish a satellite account on the nonprofit sector. In addition to facilitating greater domestic understanding of the nonprofit sector’s contribution to our economy, such an account is critical for comparison with estimates developed by other countries around the globe.
Our collective advocacy is needed to address the shortage of essential workforce data and to ensure that charitable organizations have the resources needed to achieve their missions. Join this sector-wide effort to secure regular, reliable economic and employment data and pledge your support for the Nonprofit SEAT Act today.