Claire McAnaw Gallagher
Most people are employed by private companies focused on turning a profit. Some are self-employed or work for the government, while others work in private nonprofit organizations. At the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we use the phrase “class, or classification, of worker” to describe these general categories of employment arrangements. Have you wondered about how much people who work for nonprofits earn, or which groups of people are most likely to work for themselves? This Spotlight compares the labor force characteristics and experiences of employed people by class of worker.
In 2022, 69.6 percent of the employed worked in for-profit businesses and 6.5 percent worked in nonprofit organizations. Overall, 13.4 percent of employed people worked for the government, in local government (6.4 percent), state government (4.5 percent), or the federal government (2.5 percent). Among the 10.4 percent of people who were self-employed, about 3 in 5 had unincorporated businesses. A very small number of employed people—0.1 percent—worked 15 hours or more per week without pay for a farm or business owned by someone they lived with. In the rest of this Spotlight, figures for the self-employed include both incorporated and unincorporated businesses.
When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, employment decreased for all classes of workers. This chart compares the percent change in average employment in each of the March through February periods after the pandemic was declared with the average employment in the 12 months before the pandemic (March 2019–February 2020). In the first year of the pandemic, from March 2020 to February 2021, overall employment fell by 7.3 percent. Employment in private for-profit businesses fell the most, dropping 8.8 percent. In the second year of the pandemic, employment began to recover in all classes with the number of self-employed workers exceeding the number before the pandemic by 2.8 percent. By the third year of the pandemic, March 2022 through February 2023, overall employment had fully recovered, with the largest gain among the self-employed, with 5.0 percent more self-employed workers than pre-pandemic.
In 2022, 64.2 percent of total workers were 25 to 54 years old. Workers age 55 years and over accounted for 23.6 percent. Younger workers, between the ages of 16 and 24, made up the remaining 12.2 percent. Self-employed workers were most likely to be age 55 and over (37.4 percent), followed by those employed in private nonprofit organizations (26.6 percent). Private for-profit companies had the smallest share of older workers, at 20.8 percent. At 15.0 percent, private for-profit companies had the largest share of younger workers, followed by 9.5 percent in nonprofits, 6.1 percent in government, and 3.3 percent as self-employed.
In 2022, 53.2 percent of workers were men and 46.8 percent were women. About two-thirds of those employed in the private nonprofit sector were women. Women also outnumbered men among those working in government, at 56.6 percent. Men accounted for 63.5 percent of the self-employed and 55.3 percent of workers in private for-profit businesses.
Among those employed in 2022, 60.6 percent were non-Hispanic White, 18.5 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 11.7 percent were non-Hispanic Black, and 6.5 percent were non-Hispanic Asian. This chart shows each class of worker and representation among racial and ethnic groups. Non-Hispanic Whites represented 68.6 percent of the private nonprofit sector and 67.1 percent of the self-employed. Hispanics or Latinos represented 10.4 percent in the private nonprofit sector and 13.1 percent in government. Non-Hispanic Blacks represented 7.9 percent among self-employed and 11.6 percent in private for-profit. Non-Hispanic Asians in government represented 4.8 percent and 5.6 percent among self-employed. Many non-Hispanic Asian workers (69.9 percent) and 46.6 percent of Hispanic or Latino workers were born outside the United States; this may explain in part their underrepresentation in the government.
Of those employed in 2022, 18.2 percent were foreign born—that is, born outside the United States to parents who were not U.S. citizens. More than 1 in 5 (21.7 percent) self-employed workers were foreign born. About one-half (49.0 percent) of the foreign born, self-employed were Hispanic or Latino. In private for-profit businesses, 19.7 percent of workers were foreign born. The foreign born accounted for 11.9 percent of nonprofit sector workers and 10.6 percent of government workers.
Working in management, professional, and related occupations was most common for all worker classes in 2022. These occupations accounted for 70.7 percent of nonprofit workers and 60.5 percent of government workers. Registered nurses accounted for 7.5 percent of nonprofit workers. Teachers in elementary, middle, and secondary (high) schools accounted for 15.6 percent of government workers. Workers in service occupations accounted for 16.1 percent of workers overall and 17.9 percent of government workers, including those working in protective service occupations like police officers and firefighters. Sales and office occupations were most common in the private for-profit sector, composing 21.5 percent of those employed. Cashiers, customer service representatives, and retail sales workers were the most common occupations. Workers in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations were more common among the self-employed (12.5 percent). Among private for-profit workers, 15.9 percent were employed in production, transportation, and material moving occupations.
Wholesale and retail trade was the largest industry among private for-profit workers (16.1 percent), followed by education and health services (15.3 percent). In 2022, education and health services accounted for 65.0 percent of nonprofit workers, largely in hospitals. Among government workers, the most common industry was education and health services (48.3 percent), followed by public administration (36.2 percent), shown here as part of other industries (37.5 percent). One in five self-employed workers was in the professional and business services industry. Self-employed workers also commonly work in the construction industry (16.5 percent). The eight largest industries are presented in this chart, and the remaining industries form an “other industries” category which includes: agriculture and related industries; mining; information; other services; and public administration.
Private nonprofit workers had the most formal education, with nearly two-thirds of those age 25 and over holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Almost 2 of 3 people employed in the nonprofit sector worked in the education and health services industry. Among government workers age 25 and over, 60.0 percent held a bachelor’s degree or higher. People with a high school diploma or less accounted for 32.2 percent of the self-employed age 25 and over. Among private for-profit businesses, 35.3 percent of workers age 25 and over had a high school diploma or less.
Almost 1 in 4 workers held a job-related certification or license in 2022. Women were more likely to hold certifications or licenses than men. Certifications and licenses were most common in the government sector. Teachers accounted for 32.5 percent of government workers who held certifications and licenses. In the nonprofit sector, 34.6 percent of workers held a certification or license; of these, 45.6 percent worked as healthcare practitioners or in technical occupations. Among the self-employed, 27.8 percent with a certification or license worked in management, business, and financial operations occupations. Certifications and licenses were less common in the private for-profit sector, where about 1 in 5 workers had a license or certification.
The next three slides provide information on earnings for full-time wage and salary workers, excluding those who were self-employed. Full-time workers are workers who usually work 35 hours or more per week at their sole or principal job. The earnings estimates are medians. In 2022, women had median earnings that were $196 less per week than men. Median usual weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers were $1,154 for men, compared with $958 for women. Men working in private nonprofit organizations and government had the highest median earnings at $1,347 and $1,293 per week, respectively. Women working for private for-profit businesses earned the least, with median earnings of $899 per week. Earnings of women working for private nonprofit organizations and for the government were essentially the same, at $1,101 and $1,098, respectively.
In 2022, median usual weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers were highest for workers in government ($1,168) and private nonprofits ($1,163). Median weekly earnings in the private for-profit sector were $1,016. Among the major race and ethnicity groups, median usual weekly earnings of non-Hispanic Asians were highest—$1,548 in government, $1,439 in the private nonprofit sector, and $1,403 in the private for-profit sector. Earnings for non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics or Latinos were considerably lower in the private for-profit sector, at $825 and $796, respectively. In private nonprofit organizations, median earnings for non-Hispanic Blacks were $949 and $1,006 for Hispanics or Latinos. Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic or Latino government workers, with median usual weekly earnings of $1,037 and $1,070, respectively, also earned less than their non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Asian counterparts.
This chart compares median weekly earnings by race, ethnicity, and sex to the median weekly earnings for all full-time wage and salary workers within the sector. It illustrates groups earning above and below the median for each class of worker. For every class of worker, median weekly earnings for all women other than non-Hispanic Asian women were below median earnings. Similarly, non-Hispanic Asian men had the highest median weekly earnings for each class of worker. The largest differences in median earnings among the race, ethnicity, and sex groups were for workers in private for-profit businesses. Median earnings for Non-Hispanic Asian men in the private for-profit sector, at 55.9 percent over the for-profit business median of $1,016, were more than double the median earnings for Hispanic or Latino women, who earned 29.1 percent less than the for-profit business median.
Of those employed in 2022, 5.5 percent were veterans who previously served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly 7 percent of employed non-Hispanic Blacks and 6.3 percent of non-Hispanic Whites were veterans, compared with 3.0 percent of Hispanics or Latinos and 1.7 percent of non-Hispanic Asians. A higher proportion of veterans worked in the government sector than in other sectors; this held for all racial and ethnic groups. Among non-Hispanic Blacks, 12.4 percent of those working government jobs were veterans, as were 9.4 percent of the self-employed. Veterans accounted for 4.9 percent of private for-profit workers, and 3.8 percent of private nonprofit workers.
In 2022, the share of government workers belonging to unions was more than triple the share of union members among workers overall, at 33.1 percent compared with 10.1 percent. This was in part due to high rates of union membership among workers in protective services occupations, of which 48.4 percent were union members, and in education, training, and library occupations, where 46.0 percent were union members. In the government sector, union membership rates for Hispanics or Latinos were 35.4 percent. In the private for-profit sector, non-Hispanic Blacks were most likely to be union members, at 7.5 percent.
In 2022, about 1 in 4 self-employed workers usually worked part time; that is, they worked between 1 and 34 hours per week. For these estimates, workers were classified as part- or full-time based on the number of hours they usually worked on all jobs. Private nonprofit workers were the next most likely to work part time, with 19.1 percent doing so. Nearly 28 percent of non-Hispanic Whites who were self-employed worked part time, as did 20.3 percent of those who worked for private nonprofits. Non-Hispanic Asians and Hispanics or Latinos had the highest percentage of part-time workers in government, at 14.0 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively.
While women account for only 36.5 percent of all self-employed workers, a substantial proportion of women—nearly 4 of 10—usually worked part time in 2022. This compares with 18.5 percent of self-employed men. Overall, women in all sectors were more likely to work part time than their male counterparts. In private nonprofit organizations, 20.8 percent of women and 15.9 percent of men worked part time. In the private for-profit sector, these figures were 22.4 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. Among government workers, 12.7 percent of women and 7.7 percent of men worked part time.
Claire McAnaw Gallagher is a division chief in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For questions about this Spotlight, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The data in this Spotlight are from the Current Population Survey, a monthly nationwide sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. The survey does not include people living in institutions or those on active duty in the Armed Forces.
All estimates are annual averages and are based on worker’s sole or primary job. Estimates are for employed people age 16 and over with the exception of educational attainment figures, which are for those age 25 and over, and veterans, which are for those age 18 and over.
People who are Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.
The earnings estimates referenced in this Spotlight are medians. The median is the mid-point in the earnings distribution, with one-half of workers having earnings above the median level and one-half having earnings below. These earnings comparisons are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences, such as job skills and responsibilities, work experience, and specialization. Differences in earnings also reflect a variety of factors, including variations in the distributions of workers by educational attainment, occupation, industry, and geographic region.