This Is the Largest Industry in Each State [2019 Data Study]

One of the greatest things about America is how it’s a blend of so many different types of people and different cultures. Each state has its own history, flair, demographics, and characteristics that make it unique, but also make it American. The geography and history play an important role in the economic and industrial composition of a state.

With that in mind, we were interested in finding out just which industry is the largest in each state.


To do that, we used GDP data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. We analyzed the current-dollar gross domestic product for each industry and each state in 2017, the most recent data available (Note: the 2018 data has been partially released, but for the sake of consistency, we used 2017 instead of mixing and matching). From there, we calculated the percentage that each industry contributes to the state’s GDP.

Additionally, we used data from 2013 – 2017 to calculate the percent increase or decrease in those industries to show the change over time. 


Below is a map of our findings:

In our analysis, we found that manufacturing was the most common largest industry by count of state at 14. Interestingly, government and government enterprises was second by count of state at 12. This industry was the leader in many smaller or less populated states, such as Alaska, Maine, and Montana.

Coming in third by count of state is real estate at 9, which was towards the top for most state’s GDP. Certainly real estate tends to be always be a leading industry as we all need a place to stay and a place to work, but with the improved economy, the real estate market has been red hot in many places.

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In all, out of the dozens of industries analyzed, only 7 were leaders in a state. After manufacturing, government, and real estate, it’s professional and business services (6), trade (5), finance and insurance (4), and natural resources and mining (1).

We also were interested in seeing how these leading industries fared over time. The above map shows the percentage increase or decrease over 5 years (2013 – 2017, the most recent complete data available). 

Almost every state saw an increase in the GDP contribution of their leading industry. Some, such as Delaware, saw as much as a 50% increase. However, three states saw a decrease in their leading industry: Louisiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Below is a table with all of the information from our study.

Overall, each state is unique and plays an important part in the United States. What makes a state unique also helps define its economic and industry composition. Our study used government GDP data to determine the largest industry in each state, and the results are both interesting and insightful.

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Eric Moore

Eric Moore is the owner of Overheard on Conference Calls. As a corporate veteran, he’s seen and heard it all. And when it comes to office chairs, desks, and accessories, he’s used it all. As a former office furniture sales rep, he bring his expertise to provide readers the knowledge to choose the right products for them. He also has his OSHA Ergonomics Certificate.