Where the Jobs Are Concentrated: The Largest Private Employers in the United States

To provide some context for appreciating the statistics related to the largest private employers in the U.S., let’s begin with the two largest public employers in the country. Those two employers are the Department of Defense, which with 3.2 million employees is the largest employer in the world, and the U.S. Postal Service, which with 601,000 employees is the third largest employer, public or private, in the U.S.

So, the Department of Defense has a million more employees—or almost 50% more–than WalMart has, and to provide some added perspective, the People’s Liberation Army of China has 2.3 million employees, or only about 100,000 more employees than Walmart has. More tellingly, the total for the Department of Defense does not include the 240,000 employees of the Department of Homeland Security, and it includes only direct employees—not the employees of weapons producers, private suppliers, or private security contractors.

The following employment statistics for the largest private employers in the U.S. are taken from Census Bureau reports. The stock price information is taken from an article in USA Today [http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/08/22/ten-largest-employers/2680249/]:

1. Walmart

Total employees: 2.2 million
1-yr. stock price change: +1.7%

2. Yum! Brands

Total employees: 523,000
1-yr. stock price change: +9.9%

3. McDonald’s

Total employees: 440,000
1-yr. stock price change: +9.3%

4. IBM

Total employees: 434,246
1-yr. stock price change: -8.3%

5. United Parcel Service

Total employees: 399,000
1-yr. stock price change: +12.9%

6. Target

Total employees: 361,000
1-yr. stock price change: +5.9%

7. Kroger

Total employees: 343,000
1-yr. stock price change: +71.5%

8. Home Depot

Total employees: 340,000
1-yr. stock price change: +31.0%

9. Hewlett-Packard

Total employees: 331,800
1-yr. stock price change: +32.4%

10. General Electric

Total employees: 305,000
1-yr. stock price change: +13.0%

So four of the top ten employers are retailers and two are fast-food restaurants. Most of their employees are categorized as low-wage. Of the other four employers, one is a delivery company, or a service provider. Two are tech companies that employ most of their production workers overseas; so many of their U.S. employees hold service-related positions. And only one of the largest employers, General Electric, is anything close to the classic American corporation of the mid-twentieth century–though it has become so diversified that it is hard to describe it simply or even primarily as a manufacturer and, again, many of its production facilities are now located overseas.

It seems notable that none of the ten largest employers nationally are banks or energy companies. Some of the banks are among the top 25 employers, but none of the energy companies—not Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Phillips 66, or Valero Energy, which, respectively rank 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 10th in the 2014 Fortune 500.

Likewise, it seems notable that none of the ten largest employers nationally are steel producers, auto manufacturers, or other durable goods producers—and that, from that category, only General Motors appears among the top 25 employers. Those industries have not disappeared from the U.S., but they have all become very automated and most of the high-wage jobs that they used to provide have disappeared. On the 2014 Fortune 500 list, General Motors still ranks 7th and Ford Motor Company ranks 8th.

11. Tata Consultancy Services

Total employees: 300,464

12. Sears Holdings

Total employees: 293,000

13. Bank of America

Total employees: 281,791

14. Berkshire Hathaway

Total employees: 270,858

15 Citigroup

Total employees: 266,000

16. Wells Fargo

Total employees: 264,200

17 J.P. Morgan Chase

Total employees: 260,157

18. AT&T

Total employees: 256,420

19. FedEx

Total employees: 255,573

20. Walgreens

Total employees: 211,500

21. General Motors

Total employees: 207,000

22. Lowe’s

Total employees: 204,767

23. Aramark

Total employees: 203,500

24. United Technologies

Total employees: 199,900

25. Verizon Communications

Total employees: 193,900

 

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