Most state economies are relatively diverse, yet it is not uncommon for a single industry to have an outsized impact on the state’s economy and labor market. In some cases, a single company employs a significant share of the state’s workforce.
State governments tend to be the largest employers in each state. There are more than 22 million public employees nationwide. In contrast, Wal-Mart — by far the nation’s largest private employer — employs about 1.5 million full-time workers in the United States. When excluding public administrative bodies, Wal-Mart is often the largest employer in a state, but a number of other organizations also emerge as the biggest employer on the state level.
> Largest employer: University of Michigan
> Employee headcount: 48,060
> Industry: Public universities
The size of these companies varies considerably. In Alaska, the Providence Health & Services network of hospitals employs around 4,000 people. In Washington state, Boeing employs 18 times as many people. In Texas, Wal-Mart employs 171,531, at last count. Based on the most recent available full and part-time employee counts, these are the largest employers in each of the 50 states.
As the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart has a uniquely large impact on many state economies, and it is the largest employer in 23 states. The 53,310 people employed in Arkansas — the retailer’s home state — accounts for about 30% of the state’s entire retail sector, and about 4% of the state’s total workforce.
Educational and medical institutions also frequently top a state’s list of employers. After Wal-Mart, one of the more common largest employer across the 50 states is a state’s university system. The State University of New York, which operates 64 campuses across the state, employs over 90,000 faculty and staff.
Similarly, organizations operating in the health care sector and have multiple large campuses across the state are often major employers as well. In 14 states, a health care network is the largest employer, including Partners HealthCare in Massachusetts, which employs 68,000 people. Several of these health care networks are also part of a university system, such as the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, which employs 61,000 people in the state.
To determine the largest employer in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed employment figures for nonprofits and private and publicly held companies from company press releases, government data, business journals, local media reports, as well as statements from company representatives. For the purposes of our analysis, we treated some state government employers like public universities as independent organizations, in keeping with how states frequently identify and compare company headcounts. Military bases were excluded from the list. In many cases, employee counts for the various colleges, laboratories, and medical centers falling under a single university system were combined. This was because these systems frequently attribute employees from the university and medical centers together. However, when a spokesperson from the medical centers or universities identified the organizations as distinct employers, they were counted separately.