The State of the Working Class in the U.S. in 2022

14 May 2023 262 hits

Over the last 60 years U.S. capitalism has shifted away from manufacturing based to primarily finance capitalism. This shift has meant that what kinds of jobs the working class in the U.S. has, has shifted dramatically over this period.

As we can see from this article, even in a finace capital de-indutrialized society the working class is the key to society. Without the working class nothing else happens, no healthcare, no transportation, no construction, no education system, no military, no deliveries, no profits for the bosses.

The power to lead a communist revolution and change society is in the hands of the working class.


A Caution:

Like all statistics and mathematical data related to work in the U.S., these numbers shift, sometimes in very short bursts of time. The economic vicissitudes brought upon by the three-year old Covid pandemic (and counting), climate change, the war in Ukraine, an economy verging on a recession and, not least, workers’ fluctuating attitudes toward work in general, make all aspects of work–workers’ salary, where they work, for how long, with what security, the economic viability of their employers, and so on–very fluid. Undoubtedly this is true in major economies around the world.

So consider that most of the following data are only provisionally true and that, furthermore, exact figures differ somewhat from source to source. Mostly I relied on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a U.S. federal government agency, and on Statista, an online platform based in Hamburg, Germany.

However quickly and significantly the data on labor may shift, one major and steadfast fact about the working class in the U.S. and working conditions is this: like every single aspect of life in the U.S., from housing, health, quality of life, how many trees are planted in your neighborhood, how often your garbage is collected, how law enforcement deals with you, how many resources your neighborhood schools have, how many local grocery stores exist, or how much you earn, racism and sexism play a major, objectively measurably role.


Number of jobs in the U.S. How many wage (per hour) and salary (fixed amount per paycheck) workers:

In 2022 over 158 million jobs existed in the U.S.  As of June 2022, full-time workers numbered 132.25 million, just under 84% of all employment. In 2021, about 127.19 million people were employed in the United States on a full-time basis.

In January, 2023, 27.52 million workers were part-time or 17% of the total workforce, 63% of whom are women.

(source Statista, an online platform headquarters in Hamburg, Germany)

What workers are paid:

In 2022 the average salary in the U.S. was $53,490 per year.

In 2022 the median weekly earnings of men was $395, and for women it was $327.

In 2022 while 25% of men earn less than $15 an hour, the figure is 40% for women.

Roughly 1 in 3 workers, or 32% of wage earners, earn less than $15 an hour, roughly 52 million workers. This is made worse by gender and race and where workers earn their living.

Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 85 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($1,029 versus $1,216).

Racial and ethnic disparities are striking: 26 percent of white workers make less than $15 an hour, compared to 46 percent of Hispanic workers and 47 percent of Black workers. Forty percent of working women earn less than $15 an hour, compared to 25 percent of men in the workforce.

The jurisdiction with the highest number of low-earning workers in the U.S. is Puerto Rico, where 76 percent of all workers make less than $15 an hour.

A majority of Puerto Rican workers are Hispanic, although those who identify as white are less likely to earn below-$15 wages; nearly 67 percent of white Puerto Ricans still make less than $15 an hour.

While all Mississippians are more likely to make under $15, 55 percent of women in the state’s workforce earn less, as do 63 percent of Black workers in the state, and 70 percent of working women of color.

As for unions and unionizing:

(According to the following Bureau of Labor Statistics 2023:

* Union membership has continued its decline:  10.1 percent in 2022, down from 10.3 percent in 2021. The number of wage and salary workers in unions in 2021 was about 14 million. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.

*The unionization rate for men decreased to 10.5 percent in 2022, and the rate for women declined to 9.6 percent. The rate for men is below their 2019 rate, while the rate for women is above their 2019 rate.

*The union membership rates for White workers (10.3 percent), Black workers (11.5 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent) declined in 2021. Black workers remained more likely to be union members than any other demographic.

*In 2022 union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.1 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.0 percent). The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent).

*In 2022, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (38.8 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers. The number of union workers employed in the private sector increased by 193,000 to 7.2 million over the year.

*Union organizing this past year particularly at Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, graduate teaching assistants (e.g., at MIT and at BU), in the leisure and hospitality sector, transportation and warehousing greatly accelerated, and the future of unions may advance in the coming years.

*The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees representation votes at most businesses, shows unions won elections at 995 businesses last year for which results have been certified by the board. That was nearly double the 575 wins of the previous year.

Industries employing the most number of workers:

The big picture is that in 2022, the education and health services industry employed the largest number of wage and salary earners in the United States. That year, about 35.4 million people were employed in the education and health services industry.

Labor data is seasonally adjusted. With that in mind, the BLS reported that in February, 2020, these industries employed the greatest numbers of workers.

1.Education and Health: 24.6 million

2. Business and Professional Services: 21.4 million (Examples of business and professional services include accounting, management events, graphic design, IT services, architecture, legal services, marketing, engineering, research and development, and advertising)

3. State and Local Government: 20 million

4. Leisure and Hospitality: 17 million

5. Retail: 15.6 million

6. Manufacturing: 12.8 million

7. Construction: 7.6 million

The industry employing the most number of workers in the US in 2021 was education and health services if you combine these two sectors. Manufacturing has now dropped to about number 6 of the top ten industries; construction is next.

Projected job growth by sector:

The fastest projected growth in the short term will occur in the healthcare, healthcare support, construction, and personal care fields. Together, these four occupational groups are expected to account for more than 5.3 million new jobs by 2022, about one-third of the total employment growth (BLS).

By 2022, the greatest projected growth will be in the following 5 sectors. Percentage represents change from previous years. Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations are projected to add the most: 1.7 million.

1.Healthcare support occupations 28.1%

2. Healthcare practitioners and technical occupations. 21.5%

3. Construction and extraction occupations 21.4%

4. Personal care and service occupations 20.9%

5. Computer and mathematical occupations 18%

In 2022, the fastest projected growth will occur in the healthcare, healthcare support, construction, and personal care fields. Together, these four occupational groups are expected to account for more than 5.3 million new jobs by 2022, about one-third of the total employment growth.

Some conclusions:

Although the top ten private industries, corporations, and employers occasionally shift places in order of both revenue and number of employees, one constant is apparent: None of them are heavy industry, mining, or traditional manufacturing of durable goods. They are service retail, food-related services, financial and professional, consumer goods, technology, and health-related services. The non-manufacturing professional and business service industry is the second largest industry now in the U.S.

The most obvious examples of this titanic shift from manufacturing to the service industries are the privately-owned corporations Walmart, Amazon, Home Depot, McDonald’s, and Target. Worldwide Walmart employs more workers–around 2.3 million–than are in the U.S. military. Ditto for Amazon which employs about 1.6 million worldwide. Roughly 200,000 workers are employed by McDonald’s, while another 2 million work at McDonald’s franchised restaurants worldwide.

The public and private sectors of education and health in 2021 employed the largest number of people in the United States. In 2022, about 35.4 million people were employed in the education and health services industry.

A major caveat to all the above:

On August 5, 2022, The New York Times, based on all the latest BLS data regarding high job growth in the above selected sectors, made the following less exuberant analysis:

“Job growth is strong. Wages are rising. But workers still aren’t coming back.

Called the “Great Resignation,” as of March 2022, 8.6 million people quit their jobs this year.

The share of Americans working or actively looking for work fell slightly in July, to its lowest level of the year. The decline came despite strong hiring and falling unemployment, indicating that people who are looking for jobs are finding them, but that people aren’t coming off the sidelines to look for work.

The labor force figures, which are released in the same report as the monthly payroll numbers but come from a separate survey, can be volatile, and economists caution against reading too much into small monthly changes. But the bigger picture is clear: Growth in the labor force, which accelerated late last year, has stalled in recent months.”


At the end of the day workers have the last laugh. They can write the final narrative on work. Labor–namely the millions of men and women who constitute the workforce and therefore the economic backbone of this and of every country–cannot be forever predictably managed. The three-year pandemic period has demonstrated this in small ways. Millions of workers from 2019 to the present wanted higher wages; they wanted unions to represent them; they didn’t want to return to the office or to the workplace; they wanted flexible hours; and millions said, “No thanks. I don’t want to return at all.”

Organized, conscious of their power, motivated, militant, and burying once and for all their old and heavy burdens of racism, sexism, and xenophobia, they can ultimately decide it all: which class controls society, how society is organized and what is produced.


The U.S. Armed Forces, the world's third largest military by active personnel consists of 1,359,685 service members in the regular armed forces with an additional 799,845 service members in the reserves as of 28 February 2019. Overall, the U.S. Department of Defense employs about 3.3 million people.

In 2021, around 18.28 million people were working for state and local governments in the United States. The number of nonmilitary federal government employees was about 2.85 million people.

Walmart is a close second (compared to the federal employment), employing about 2.2 million in 2021 worldwide. Walmart is the largest private employer by the number of workers it has in the U.S. and has the greatest number of employees of all companies in the world. Walmart is the largest employer in 19 states, including every Southern state except North Carolina.

In 2021, the education and health services industry employed the largest number of people in the United States. That year, about 34.7 million people were employed in the education and health services industry.

A largest employer by state 2022 industry breakdown for all states shows that retail, health care and education remain the primary employee sectors. From 2018-2022, Walmart has reportedly held out at number one of 22 states based on the highest worker count.

According to the US Department of Labor, professional and related occupations account for 59% of all jobs in the United States.

Since about 2018, Amazon and Walmart continue to battle for the number one position as the largest private employer in the United States. Walmart employs 1.5 million people in the United States, and 2.2 million employees worldwide.

U.S.’s largest private employers as of 2021:

1. Walmart.

2. Amazon

3. Home Depot

4. Kroger

5. Fed Ex

6. Target. Home Depot

7. UPS

8. IBM

9. Berkshire Hathaway


11.United Health Group

12. TJX

13.Pepsi Co.

14.Cognizant Technology Solutions


Summary of the Impact of race and gender on wages:

One in three U.S. workers is still making less than $15 an hour, while the share of women and people of color earning that amount is even greater.

Median weekly earnings of the nation's 118.9 million full-time wage and salary workers were $1,041 in the second quarter of 2022 (not seasonally adjusted), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported

Nearly 52 million workers -- or almost one-third of the U.S.'s labor force -- earn less than $15 an hour, according to a study released Tuesday by Oxfam America, an anti-poverty advocacy group.

These workers, whose annual income is less than $31,200, are disproportionately women and people of color, the study found.

Some 47% of Black workers and 46% of Hispanic workers make less than $15 an hour, compared with 26% of white workers. Some 40% of female workers earn less than that threshold, compared with 25% of male workers.

Half of the women of color in the workforce make less than $15 an hour, as do nearly 58% of single parents.