Special Report

Largest Industry in Each State

Thomas C. Frohlich, Samuel Stebbins

 

Tobacco field in Virginia
Source: Thinkstock

46. Virginia
> Largest industry: Food and beverage and tobacco products manufacturing
> Industry GDP contribution: $14.93 billion
> Industry output as pct. of GDP: 3.5%
> Industry private workforce: 37,502

Despite contracting by 5.9% in 2014, food and beverage and tobacco products manufacturing is the largest industry in Virginia, generating nearly $15 billion for the economy.

Only a handful of states produce almost all of the nation’s tobacco, and Virginia is one of them. The state produced 52.4 million pounds of tobacco in 2015, a substantial portion of the U.S. total of 715.9 million pounds. While this was down from the previous year, it still trails only North Carolina and Kentucky, in tobacco production.

online-publishing
Source: Thinkstock

47. Washington
> Largest industry: Publishing industries, except Internet (includes software)
> Industry GDP contribution: $31.52 billion
> Industry output as pct. of GDP: 8.2%
> Industry private workforce: 61,912

The publishing industry is the largest in Washington, accounting for more than 8% of the state’s GDP. It is the only state in the country where publishing is the largest industry in the economy. While only 2.4% of the state’s workforce is employed in the publishing industry, the state is home to a far higher concentration of publishing jobs than the country as a whole. A state’s largest industry is almost never a low paying one, and publishing jobs in Washington are especially high paying. The typical publishing worker in the state earns $190,150, considerably more than the average for such workers nation, at $103,684.

West Virginia Coal Company Terminal, Mining
Source: Thinkstock

48. West Virginia
> Largest industry: Mining, except oil and gas
> Industry GDP contribution: $6.22 billion
> Industry output as pct. of GDP: 9.2%
> Industry private workforce: 16,526

The mining industry, which includes coal mining, is the biggest contributor to West Virginia’s economy. Producing more coal than any other state except for Wyoming, mining in West Virginia generates $6.2 billion in economic output, 9.2% of the state’s GDP.

Due in part to recent changes in laws and regulations such as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which requires reductions in carbon emissions, coal’s economic contribution to the nation and West Virginia’s economy will likely wane in coming years. Mining’s economic output in West Virginia dropped 3.6% in 2014.

insurance-meeting
Source: Thinkstock

49. Wisconsin
> Largest industry: Insurance carriers and related activities
> Industry GDP contribution: $12.76 billion
> Industry output as pct. of GDP: 4.7%
> Industry private workforce: 62,351

Wisconsin’s insurance industry expanded by 12.6% in 2014, far outpacing the state’s 2.1% total economic growth. The industry grew despite the slight contraction in the broader finance sector. Contributing nearly $12.8 billion to the state’s economy, insurance accounts for 4.7% of Wisconsin’s GDP. With a higher concentration of insurance industry workers than the country as a whole, the industry provides high paying jobs for 2.6% of the state’s workforce.

Coal Mine Dump Truck, Wyoming
Source: Thinkstock

50. Wyoming
> Largest industry: Mining, except oil and gas
> Industry GDP contribution: $4.20 billion
> Industry output as pct. of GDP: 12.0%
> Industry private workforce: 9,458

Home to most of the nation’s largest coal mines, Wyoming produces 40% of all coal in the United States, the most of any state. The state is also home to the world’s largest deposit of trona, a mineral used in a process that helps coal-fired generators meet emission standards. Given Wyoming’s considerable natural resources, it is not surprising that mining is the largest industry in the state, accounting for 12% of economic output.

As the country shifts to cleaner energy sources, the short-term outlook of the coal industry, and consequently mining, in the state is not good — according to the Energy Information Administration. Already, coal’s economic output shrank by nearly 15% in 2014.