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Here in the United States of America, many of us are told that we can be whatever we want to be. But do you ever wonder what most of us end up becoming? Where do most Americans work—in business, healthcare, manufacturing, or retail? And for whom? Who, exactly, are the largest employers in America? 


The answer depends largely on where you live. If, for example, you live in the South, then Walmart is your largest employer. Walmart employs millions of people across the South and Southeast—from Texas to Florida. Walmart also employs the most people in Arizona, Illinois, and Ohio.

On the West Coast, the employers are more varied, from public education to casinos (and Walmart doesn’t make the cut). If one had to guess MGM Grand being the largest employer in Nevada isn’t that big of a surprise, given the amount of properties they own in Las Vegas.

But in the Northwest, in Oregon and Washington, the largest employers are somewhat surprising: tech giant Intel (for Oregon) and defense contractor Boeing (for Washington). Neither company calls either state home. Intel’s headquarters are in California, and Boeing calls Chicago its base. Nevertheless, Intel and Boeing employ thousands of people in those Northwest states.

In many states, people who are classified as active-duty military personnel outnumber employees in the private sector. Alaska counts itself among these states—as does fellow non-contiguous state Hawaii. Other active-duty military-majority states include Virginia, Wyoming, and Kentucky.

On the East Coast, healthcare employers dominate the landscape. States such as Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts can claim healthcare providers as their largest respective employers. And like California, New York calls a public education system its largest employer: the State University of New York, commonly known as SUNY.

In fact, education institutions are the largest employers in many states, not just our two largest coastal ones. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Colorado can all boast that their universities employ many of their citizens. Behind Walmart and healthcare providers, universities are the largest employer category.