Largest American Employers

Retail and service are America's largest employers.

Service is the common denominator of the largest American employers - both privately and publicly-held companies.

Largest American Employers: Statistics

The largest American employer is, by far, the United States federal government with over four million employees worldwide. Wal-Mart, the retailing giant follows with 1.8 million employees. These 5.8 million employees are more than the total employees at the remaining top ten publicly-held American employers.

United States Government

The United States government employs about two million people worldwide. These people are responsible for everything from counting the pencils at the General Services Administration to negotiating with foreign heads of state at the State Department.

An additional 700,000 individuals are employed by the post office in all aspects of mail distribution and delivery.

There are currently about 1.5 million people in the uniformed military, serving worldwide.

Top 10 Public American Employers
Rank Company Type of Business Employees
1 Wal-Mart Retail 1,800,000
2 Kelly Services Staffing/Temporary Help 750,000
3 McDonald's Fast Food 465,000
4 UPS Express Delivery 428,000
5 IBM Computer Hardware 355,766
6 Home Depot Home Retail 345,000
7 Target Retail 338,000
8 Citigroup Banking 337,000
9 General Electric Leasing & Finance 319,000
10 AT&T Staffing/Telephone Service 302,770

Top Public Companies

According to the Almanac of American Employers 2008, the largest publicly-held employer is Wal-Mart with about 1.8 million employees worldwide. Wal-Mart and the other "Top 10 Public American Employers" are service-oriented businesses which require large number of employees to provide the service that generates the revenues for the company.Citigroup, number eight on the "Top 10" list, employs people worldwide in a variety of careers to support their retail branches, deposit, credit and loan operations, treasury functions and international operations. Due to the extreme levels of technological security required, Citigroup employees tend to be working on-site; with minimal telecommuting.

Several of the "Top 10", such as Wal-Mart and Target reinforce their service orientation by offering scholarships to employees, employee family members and local residents.

Top Private Companies

Most of the "Top 10 Private American Employers", as highlighted on the Forbes list of the largest private companies, are also service-oriented businesses, just like the list of large publicly-held companies. Four of the top ten private companies are grocery stores, with another four providing business and consumer services such as accounting, car rentals and cable television.

Top American Employers of Recent College Graduates

College graduates are in increasing demand as baby boomers start to leave the workforce, creating openings in low and mid levels of management. Many of the largest American employers are actively recruiting college grads, refusing to follow the lead of companies who pass over graduates as prospective employees, telling them they don't have enough experience. Some of the employers actively recruiting college grads include:

Top 10 Private American Employers
Rank Company Type of Business Employees
1 Publix Super Markets Grocery 125,000
2 PricewaterhouseCoopers Business Services 125,000
3 Cargill Crops 101,000
4 Ernst & Young Business Services 100,600
5 Meijer Grocery 70,000
6 MDFC Holding Food Processing 63,100
7 HE Butt Grocery Grocery 60,000
8 Enterprise Rent-a-Car Business Services 57,350
9 Cox Enterprises Broadcast & Cable 52,800
10 Hy-Vee Grocery 46,000
  • Enterprise Car Rental - 8,500 openings in its management training program
  • AmeriCorp - 6,000 positions in nonprofits like Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity
  • Walgreen -5,924 positions
  • Internal Revenue Service - 5,000 positions
  • Target - 3,350 positions

Don't Fall for the Myths

Myth 1: The Best Jobs Are in the Largest Companies

The size of the company has nothing to do with the company's ability to manage, train, direct, compensate and support the needs of their employees. Some of the best jobs are in small and mid-sized companies.

Myth 2: Large Companies Always Have Large Corporate Staffs

Berkshire Hathaway is number 10 on the Forbes Global 2000 list. It is a holding company for a series of insurance, package goods and service companies with a total of about 233,000 employees; however, only 19 work at the Berkshire Hathaway headquarters. Berkshire Hathaway is a decentralized holding company, requiring their companies to run totally independently at the company level. This decentralization results in the need for a very minimal home office staff.

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Largest American Employers