The Government Agencies that Employ the Most People
The Government Agencies that Employ the Most People

by Palmer Gibbs

Who's the largest employer in the U.S.?

When people hear that question, they tend to think of giant companies, like Wal-Mart, General Electric and McDonald's. But the runaway leader isn't a giant company. In fact, it's not even a company.

With approximately 2.7 million civilian employees, the U.S. government is the largest employer in the country. For reference, Wal-Mart has 2.2 million employees worldwide. While this number reveals the enormity of the federal government, it doesn't tell the full story of where these 2.7 million people work. After all, the U.S. government consists of dozens of departments and agencies, each with distinct goals and purposes.

That's why the team at InsideGov decided to take a deeper look at employment in the U.S. government. Using data from the Office of Personnel Management, we found the 10 government departments and agencies that had the most employees in September 2013. Non-civilians, like uniformed military personnel, are not included in these figures.

It's also important to note that these numbers only include federal personnel. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that with state and local government positions, the total number of government employees in the U.S. jumps to over 21.8 million.

10. Other Defense Activities (Excluding Defense Logistics Agency)

Worldwide Employees: 75,223
Government Branch: Executive Departments

The Department of Defense consists of multiple levels of departments and agencies. Some of the defense agencies included in this category include the Defense Commissary Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

9. Department of Agriculture

Worldwide Employees: 95,223
Government Branch: Executive Departments

President Abraham Lincoln created the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and later referred to the agency as "The People's Department." The USDA heads initiatives on food, agriculture and natural resource conservation.

8. Department of the Treasury

Worldwide Employees: 112,461
Government Branch: Executive Departments

Besides providing inspiration for Broadway hits, the Department of the Treasury is responsible for managing the government's finances and promoting economic growth.

7. Department of Justice

Worldwide Employees: 115,616
Government Branch: Executive Departments

The Department of Justice is tasked with enforcing the law and administering justice. This includes managing the extensive federal prison system in the U.S.

6. Department of the Air Force

Worldwide Employees: 169,440
Government Branch: Executive Departments

The U.S. Air Force became its own branch of the military in 1847. In 2013, the Air Force had nearly 170,000 civilian employees and approximately twice as many active duty personnel.

5. Department of Homeland Security

Worldwide Employees: 192,073
Government Branch: Executive Departments

Established in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for protecting the U.S. against terrorism and other threats.

4. Department of the Navy

Worldwide Employees: 194,923
Government Branch: Executive Departments

The Department of the Navy had roughly 6,000 civilian personnel outside of the U.S. in 2013, making it one of the most globally expansive agencies on this list.

3. Department of the Army

Worldwide Employees: 264,906
Government Branch: Executive Departments

The largest branch of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army has over a quarter million civilian employees and more than a million soldiers in the Regular Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.

2. Department of Veterans Affairs

Worldwide Employees: 323,208
Government Branch: Executive Departments

The Department of Veterans Affairs employees more people than General Electric, which had 307,000 employees worldwide as of Dec. 2013. The VA provides benefits and services to U.S. veterans and their families.

1. U.S. Postal Service

Worldwide Employees: 584,027
Government Branch: Independent Agencies

Perhaps no federal government employee is as ubiquitous or recognizable as the mail carrier. With over 580,000 personnel, the U.S. Postal Service employs more people than any other independent government agency, with the Social Security Administration being a distant second.



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Politics: "The Government Agencies that Employ the Most People"