Visualizing the American Workforce as 100 People
In 2022, the U.S. population stood at 333 million. Of that, roughly 60% were employed in various jobs, positions, and sectors in the U.S. economy.
But where did all these people work? What jobs did they do and what positions did they hold? Where do most Americans do their nine-to-five?
Using data from the National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates (2022) put out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we reimagine the employed American workforce as only 100 people, to find out answers.
Interestingly, the data contains a mix of information demarcations. Some are job-specific (type of work), some are based on position (like Management), and some are broken down by industry (Transport and Health).
The Most Common Jobs In the U.S.
By far, most of the American workforce (13 out of 100) are employed in Office & Administrative work. This includes a mind-boggling variety of jobs: receptionists, payroll clerks, secretaries, proof-readers, administrative assistants, and customer service representatives to name a few.
Notably, any sort of management role is absent from this, as well as any other job categories, since the BLS categorizes managers in their own class.
The industry which employs the second largest group of people is Health, accounting for 11 people from the 100. This category is a combination of two sectors listed in the original dataset (healthcare practitioners and healthcare support) and covers the entire industry: from physicians, surgeons, veterinarians, nurses, and therapists to technicians, assistants, orderlies, and home and personal care aides.
Here’s a quick look at all the major sectors most of America’s workforce actually works in.
|1.||Office & Admin||13||Receptionists, Clerks, Customer service, Secretaries.|
|2.||Health||11||Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Vets, Orderlies, Personal care aides.|
|3.||Transport||9||Warehouse workers, Packagers, Pilots, Ambulance, Bus, Truck, Taxi drivers, Ship captains.|
|4.||Sales||9||Sales representatives, Counter clerks.|
|5.||Food||8||Food preparers & servers, Bartenders, Dishwashers, Hosts.|
|6.||Management||6||Legislators, Chief executives, Directors, General & Operations managers.|
|7.||Business & Finance||6||Accountants, Auditors, Financial analysts, Logisticians.|
|8.||Manufacturing||6||Factory workers, Gas fitters, Machine operators, Cobblers, Tailors, Barbers.|
|9.||Education||6||Teachers (all fields, all levels).|
|10.||Construction & Extraction||4||Stone / brick / block / cement masons. Construction laborers. Roofers, Plumbers, Electricians, Mining workers.|
|11.||Mechanics & Installation||4||Auto mechanic, Farm equipment mechanic, Home appliance mechanic, Locksmiths.|
|12.||Data & Tech||3||Information analyst, Database architect, Software & Web
developers, Data scientists, Mathematicians, Computer support.
|13.||Custodial||3||Cleaning, Groundskeeping, Landscaping, Housekeeping.|
|14.||Protection||2||Cops, Firefighters, Security guards, Lifeguards, Correctional officers.|
|15.||Hospitality||2||Animal trainers / caretakers. Ushers / attendants. Makeup artists. Concierge. Exercise trainers.|
|16.||Architecture & Engineering||2||All engineers and architects (excluding the information industry).|
|17.||Community & Social Service||2||Social workers, Therapists (counsellors) & Religious work.|
|18.||Arts, Media, & Sport||1||Fine artists, Designers, Actors, Athletes, Journalists, Writers, Authors, Musicians.|
|19.||Science||1||All scientists (not engineers).|
|20.||Legal||1||Lawyers, Judges, Paralegals, Mediators.|
|21.||Farming, Fishing, & Forestry||1||Farmers, logging workers.|
The third most common job is actually a tie between Transport—cargo moving workers, pilots, truck drivers—and Sales—retail and industry sales agents, counter clerks—with both sectors employing nine of the 100 people. In the Sales category, two of the nine people are cashiers.
Ranked fifth is Food, with eight people, ranging from private chefs to serving staff at fast food restaurants.
Another six all belong in some kind of Management role (across industry, and including legislators) with two of those six being “top level executives” like a CEO, a general manager, a mayor, or university president. Management shares its spot with Business & Finance, Manufacturing, and Education, all at six each.
The following jobs or industries also employ the same number of people:
- Construction & Extraction along with Mechanics & Installation, at four each.
- Data & Tech, with Custodial jobs, with three each.
- Protection, Hospitality, Architecture & Engineering, and Social work, all at two each.
- Artists & Athletes, Scientists, Legal, and Farming, Fishing & Forestry are all one each.
Quirks of the Job Data
From the numbers, some fascinating nuances of the American workforce are revealed. For example, there are more cashiers (2) in the economy than artists, writers, designers & athletes (1). There are the same number of customer service representatives as the entire Scientific and Legal fields put together (2).
But perhaps the most interesting quirk comes from how few people are employed in the Farming, Fishing & Forestry industry, a critical primary sector. In raw data, the BLS estimates only slightly more than 450,000 farm, fish & forestry workers.
Importantly, it’s worth noting the BLS only collects data from “nonfarm” establishments, explaining the low estimate for their category, which is almost one-sixth of what the USDA estimates. Please see the data note at the end of this article for a full explanation.
Which Jobs Have the Highest Wages in the U.S.?
Meanwhile, the top 20 highest paid jobs (by annual average wages) all belong to doctors (usually specialists or surgeons), with two exceptions: CEOs and athletes.
The lowest-paid jobs are a mix of entertainers, and service and retail staff.
As a broader category, however, Management makes the most money, followed by Legal and then Tech. Workers in Food, Health Support, and Custodial jobs have the lowest wages.
|Rank||Jobs||Annual Average Wages|
|3.||Data & Tech||$108,130|
|5.||Architecture & Engineering||$94,670|
|6.||Business & Finance||$86,080|
|8.||Arts, Media, Sports||$76,500|
|10.||Construction & Extraction||$58,400|
|11.||Community & Social Service||$55,760|
|12.||Mechanics & Installation||$55,680|
|15.||Office & Admin||$45,550|
|18.||Farming, Fishing, & Forestry||$37,870|
Analyzing the data throws up a few correlations between number of employees and wages. The top three sectors with the most jobs (Admin, Transport, and Sales) are in the bottom 10 categories when it comes to pay.
On the other hand, three sectors in the bottom 10 of employment numbers, (Data & Tech, Architecture & Engineering, and Legal) are in the top five highest paid sectors.
The Health sector sees a big divide in pay between practitioners (doctors, nurses, therapists) ranked 5th and support staff (assistants, aides, & orderlies), ranked 21st, or second-to-last.
How is the American Workforce Changing?
Over the last five years, the American workforce has not stayed static. Of the listed 22 groups, 13 saw growth in employment numbers, nine saw a decrease, and one stayed flat since 2018.
The top gainer by far is Health Support (medical assistants, care aides, orderlies, etc.) which grew by 65%. Looking at the timeline of growth does not paint a steady picture: employment jumped between 2018 and 2019, briefly fell in 2020, and has since risen again in 2021-2022.
Another top gainer is Transport, rising from the 4th to 3rd biggest employer, beating out Sales in 2022. Business & Finance and Management have also seen steady increases since 2018.
On the other hand Hospitality saw a staggering 48% drop in numbers, not all together surprising given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the rise of tech companies like Airbnb.
Meanwhile, Office & Admin work saw a 15% loss in employees, even though this category is still the biggest employer in the country by a significant margin. Although jobs in this group saw steady declines from 2018-2021, it registered a slight uptick in workers between 2021 and 2022.
Here’s a full list of top-level sectors and how they changed.
|Jobs||2018||2022||% Change (2018-2022)|
|Business & Finance||7,721,300||9,677,720||+25%|
|Data & Tech||4,384,300||5,003,910||+14%|
|Community & Social Service||2,171,820||2,313,620||+7%|
|Arts, Media, & Sports||1,951,170||2,063,380||+6%|
|Mechanics and Installataion||5,628,880||5,823,400||+3%|
|Construction & Extraction||5,962,640||6,075,520||+2%|
|Architecture & Engineering||2,556,220||2,481,170||-3%|
|Farming, Fishing, & Forestry||480,130||461,750||-4%|
|Sales and Related||14,542,290||13,183,250||-9%|
|Office & Admin||21,828,990||18,674,770||-15%|
Looking ahead, questions about the future of the American workforce loom large, especially in the wake of the AI revolution that has swept imaginations, and quite possibly, soon the economy. People who hold administrative jobs—the largest category—are most vulnerable since many office tasks can be automated with increasingly sophisticated AI tools.
Will AI be as dominating a factor as the Industrial Revolution on the global economy? Will it cause as big a shift as the offshoring of manufacturing from the U.S.?
Or will AI blend seamlessly into the current make-up of the American workforce, merely enhancing productivity and profit?
Top U.S. Food Imports by Origin Country
This infographic shows the top exporting countries for U.S. food imports, ranging from exotic fruits to meat, oils, spices, and more.
Top U.S. Food Imports by Origin Country
The U.S. is a major producer and exporter of food products, but did you know that it’s also one of the world’s largest food importers?
Due to seasonality and climate, some foods can’t be grown on home soil, at least enough to fulfill consumption demands. Indeed, many familiar grocery items come from other countries.
This infographic from Julie Peasley uses data from the Chatham House Resource Trade Database (CHRTD) to show where the U.S. gets its food from, highlighting the top exporting countries of various imported food items.
The Types of Imported Foods
The U.S. imported around $148 billion worth of agricultural products in 2020, and according to the USDA, this has since risen to $194 billion in 2022.
Around 50% of all U.S. agricultural imports are horticultural products like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and more. Other large import categories include sugar and tropical products, meat, grains, and oilseeds.
With that context in mind, we break down each category and highlight the five foods with the largest single-origin import value.
Farm Fresh: Fruit and Vegetable Imports
U.S. fruit and vegetable imports have been on a steady rise since 2000. In fact, between 2011 and 2021, fruits and nuts imports made up 44% of domestic consumption, while 35% of vegetables consumed in the U.S. came from outside the country.
Mexico is by far the largest exporter of fruits and vegetables to the United States.
|Fruit or Vegetable||Largest Exporting Country||U.S. Import Value (2020)|
The U.S. imported $2.5 billion worth of tomatoes from Mexico in 2020, representing 31% of international tomato trade. Avocados, native to central Mexico, were nearly as popular with $2.1 billion worth of imports.
Generally, the largest exporters of fruits and vegetables to the U.S. are North and South American countries, with products often coming from Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica, and Brazil.
Beefed Up: Meat Imports
The U.S. is the world’s largest overall consumer of beef (or bovine meat), and the third-largest per capita consumer at nearly 37.9 kg (84 lbs) per person per year.
Therefore, despite being one of the top producers of beef, the country still imports a lot of it.
|Meat||Largest Exporting Country||U.S. Import Value (2020)|
|Bovine Cuts||🇨🇦 Canada||$1.4B|
|Bovine Cuts, Frozen||🇳🇿 New Zealand||$839M|
|Sheep Meat||🇦🇺 Australia||$643M|
|Swine Hams, Shoulders, and Cuts||🇨🇦 Canada||$559M|
|Bovine Cuts, Bone In||🇲🇽 Mexico||$449M|
Precisely, The U.S. imported $8.7 billion worth of meat in 2020. Canada was the largest source of imported beef, with the U.S. accounting for more than 70% of all Canadian beef exports.
The sources of meat imports are more geographically diverse than fruits and vegetables, with billions of dollars of imports coming from New Zealand and Australia.
Making Waves: Seafood Imports
Despite plenty of coastlines, the U.S. imports 70–85% of all its seafood and accounted for 15% of global seafood imports in 2020 at $21.8 billion.
Frozen shrimp and prawns were the top seafood import, with $1.9 billion worth from India.
|Fish and Seafood||Largest Exporting Country||U.S. Import Value (2020)|
|Shrimp and Prawns, Frozen||🇮🇳 India||$1.9B|
|Fish Fillet or Meat||🇨🇱 Chile||$1.4B|
|Fish Fillet or Meat, Frozen||🇨🇳 China||$884M|
|Crabs, Frozen||🇨🇦 Canada||$719M|
The largest source of U.S. seafood imports overall with $3.1 billion total was Canada, which leads in lobster, crab, and whole fish imports. It was followed by Chile at $2.1 billion, primarily for parts of fish (fillet or meat, fresh or chilled).
Other Foods: Oils, Grains, Coffee, and More
There are plenty of other types of foods and agricultural products that the U.S. relies on other countries for. Here are the largest single-origin U.S. food imports for the remaining categories:
|Food||Category||Largest Exporting Country||U.S. Import Value (2020)|
|Canola Oil, Refined||Oils||🇨🇦 Canada||$1.4B|
|Coffee, Not Roasted||Stimulants/Spices||🇨🇴 Colombia||$1.0B|
|Cashews, Shelled||Nuts/Seeds/Beans||🇻🇳 Vietnam||$960M|
|Raw Sugar, Refined||Sweetners||🇲🇽 Mexico||$723M|
Some of the highest and potentially surprising exports? Imports of refined Canadian canola oil totaled $1.4 billion in 2020, while Vietnam exported a whopping $960 million worth of cashews to America.
A Global Plate: The Diversity of U.S. Food Imports
The amount and value of food imported to the U.S. highlights the diversity of consumer preferences and the importance of global food stocks, considering America is one of the world’s leading food producers.
With countries having to rely on others to satisfy demand for limited production supply or exotic foods, the interconnectedness of the global food system is both vital and delicate.
What’s clear is that the U.S. food plate is indeed a global one, with many foods taking remarkable journeys from farm to fork.
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