The US economy, in theory, is supported by a rich diversity of employers. But in much of the country, more people work for Walmart than at any other business.
In 19 states, Walmart is the biggest private-sector employer, and in many of them, there are more Walmart employers than state or military workers, according to research from Olivet Nazarene University and 24/7 Wall Street. They includes both sparsely populated states without major industries, like Wyoming, and some of the biggest states, like Texas and Illinois.
It shouldn’t be terribly surprising, given Walmart’s gargantuan size. The company employs about 1.5 million Americans, or about 1% of the total private sector workforce in the US. With $482 billion in annual revenue, it sells more than Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft put together.
While Walmart has wobbled a bit in recent years— last year it said it would close 269 stores— it’s well positioned to remain one of the US’s biggest companies for years to come. It’s not clear, however, if it needs to remain its biggest employer.
As automation becomes more sophisticated, an increasing number of jobs will be whittled away. Last year, the company announced it was eliminating about 7,000 back office positions from its stores, with the functions either centralized or performed by computers.
Walmart has also made significant inroads into e-commerce, purchasing Jet.com and ShoeBuy.com, signaling an understanding that many future shoppers won’t be visiting its stores. It’s also experimenting with delivery by drones, and while widespread adoption is years away (if ever), it, too would reduce the number of employees.