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The top industries and employers in the Madison metro area


We’re diving into the 608’s largest industries + looking at who’s hiring.

Photo by @bestcoastmichelle

Table of Contents

More than 500,000 people (and thousands of businesses) contribute to the Madison metro area’s economy. But have you ever wondered about the 608’s heaviest hitters?

Consider this Madison Business 101 — your guide to our region’s six key industries and five major employers.

Note: When we say Madison metro area, that refers to 30+ contiguous villages, cities, and towns.

The key industries

There are five key industries that represent ~65% of the Madison area’s economy, based on data from the Madison Region Economic Partnership. We’ve listed them in order of employment numbers.

Health Care and Social Services | 25% or 127,000 employees

With massive providers like the UW Health network and SSM Health, it’s hard to live in the 608 without knowing at least one person working in the industry. Plus, the rising healthcare startup scene supports market growth.

Retail trade | 16% or 81,000 employees

The 608’s retail market is dominated by big box stores like Target + Walmart for personal care items, food, and general merchandise. Additionally, local giants like SubZero or Trek also help comprise a portion of this workforce.

Education | 13% or 68,000 employees

With a Big Ten university, a handful of local colleges, plus an ever-growing K-12 school system, this industry is crucial to the greater Madison area economy — for both students + staff. You either went to school here or know someone who went to school here — it’s that simple.

Accommodation and Food Services | 11% or 55,000 employees

It’s the Midwest, of course accommodation and service are going to be one of our top industries — ever hear of Midwest nice? An estimated 2,500 businesses contribute to this economy by producing a coveted tourism experience + regional brews, local fare, and other hospitality services.

Public Administration | 10% or 54,000 employees

When you account for the federal, state, and local employees across all 34 entities in the metro area, plus all the government employees within each city, it adds up to a lot. The City of Madison government employs upwards of 3,000 employees alone.

608today SSM Health

New medical campuses, like the state-of-the-art SSM Health facility, are becoming more and more prevalent in the Madison area.

Photo by 608today team

The major players

Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious about specific names. Whether you’re job hunting (or just “casually prospecting”), here are five major employersall that employ more than 10,000 workers on average.

UW Health
22,000 employees | Health Care and Social Services | Search jobs

UW Health is the largest healthcare provider in the area with 700,000+ patients across seven hospitals and 80 clinic locations. Patients can receive traditional hospital-based services along with other forms of mental health care, physical therapies, and state-of-the-art medical testing.

University of Wisconsin-Madison
21,000 employees | Education | Search jobs

It should come as no surprise that UW is the area’s largest employer — in education and otherwise. The University is constantly hiring for positions ranging from postdoc + intern research to outreach and media specialists.

American Family Insurance
17,000 employees | Banking, finance, and insurance | Search jobs

The $30 billion insurance behemoth offers personal and professional insurance, plus a mix of other investment and retirement products.

Epic Systems
10,700 employees | Information | Search jobs

This electronic medical record vendor is synonymous with the 608. Even though the 1,110-acre campus is in Verona, it feels much closer to the Isthmus based on how many Madisonians are related to the tech giant in one way or another.

Exact Sciences
5,000 employees | Biotechnology | Search jobs

This local biomedical research giant is looking to change the way we think about detecting and treating cancer. Exact Sciences has been making waves in the past few years with its revolutionary cancer screening test — Cologuard.

This information is derived from the most recent data published by the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

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