When we talk about the money that the “average” American worker makes, we are usually referencing a “median” or “mean” income statistic.
While this number can be useful in many different contexts, it can also be extremely limiting. The reality is that there’s a very wide range of incomes out there, even within a particular type of industry. Some people can barely make ends meet, and others make millions of dollars more.
To view income distribution through a wider lens, data visualization expert Nathan Yau has created an interactive chart that breaks down millions of data points into just 50 dots per industry. The dots are visualized on a scale from $0 to $200k+ and binned in $5,000 increments. Data is also adjusted for inflation.
Income Distribution by Industry in 1960
Here’s a snapshot showing what income distribution looked like 57 years ago for a variety of broad industries:
Generally speaking, many of the ranges are on the lower side of things and tend to have data points clustered around the “middle” of each distribution.
Income Distribution by Industry in 2014
Fast forward to 2014, and nearly every income bracket has expanded out.
In many of these professions, workers are now making more money – this is good news for the economy.
The downside? There are two problems: (1) Higher inequality, and (2) Many of the new jobs created recently are on the lower end of the income spectrum.
As you can see, top earning lawyers, engineers, or managers are able to climb up towards the tops of their brackets. A lucky few are able to make $200k+, which is far more than the vast majority of the workforce.
However, workers in other industries like food preparation or healthcare support are not so lucky. Unfortunately, in these sectors, making a middle-class income is very difficult – and many people are bringing in less than $25k per year. Yet, it is in these types of sectors that we’ve seen the majority of “new jobs” appear over recent years.
It makes it difficult for society to solve the income inequality problem when this is the case.
Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry in 2023
Services-producing industries account for the majority of U.S. GDP in 2023, followed by other private industries and the government.
Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry
The U.S. economy is like a giant machine driven by many different industries, each one akin to an essential cog that moves the whole.
Understanding the breakdown of national gross domestic product (GDP) by industry shows where commercial activity is bustling and how diverse the economy truly is.
The above infographic uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to visualize a breakdown of U.S. GDP by industry in 2023. To show this, we use value added by industry, which reflects the difference between gross output and the cost of intermediate inputs.
The Top 10 U.S. Industries by GDP
As of Q1 2023, the annualized GDP of the U.S. sits at $26.5 trillion.
Of this, 88% or $23.5 trillion comes from private industries. The remaining $3 trillion is government spending at the federal, state, and local levels.
Here’s a look at the largest private industries by economic contribution in the United States:
|Industry||Annualized Nominal GDP |
(as of Q1 2023)
|% of U.S. GDP|
|Professional and business services||$3.5T||13%|
|Real estate, rental, and leasing||$3.3T||12%|
|Educational services, health care, and social assistance||$2.3T||9%|
|Finance and insurance||$2.0T||8%|
|Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services||$1.2T||4%|
|Other private industries||$2.6T||10%|
Like most other developed nations, the U.S. economy is largely based on services.
Service-based industries, including professional and business services, real estate, finance, and health care, make up the bulk (70%) of U.S. GDP. In comparison, goods-producing industries like agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and construction play a smaller role.
Professional and business services is the largest industry with $3.5 trillion in value added. It comprises establishments providing legal, consulting, design, administration, and other services. This is followed by real estate at $3.3 trillion, which has consistently been an integral part of the economy.
Due to outsourcing and other factors, the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP has been declining for decades, but it still remains a significant part of the economy. Manufacturing of durable goods (metals, machines, computers) accounts for $1.6 trillion in value added, alongside nondurable goods (food, petroleum, chemicals) at $1.3 trillion.
The Government’s Contribution to GDP
Just like private industries, the government’s value added to GDP consists of compensation of employees, taxes collected (less subsidies), and gross operating surplus.
|Government||Annualized Nominal GDP |
(as of Q1 2023)
|% of U.S. GDP|
|State and Local||$2.1T||8%|
Figures may not add up to the total due to rounding.
State and local government spending, largely focused on the education and public welfare sectors, accounts for the bulk of value added. The Federal contribution to GDP amounts to roughly $948 billion, with 52% of it attributed to national defense.
The Fastest Growing Industries (2022–2032P)
In the next 10 years, services-producing industries are projected to see the fastest growth in output.
The table below shows the five fastest-growing industries in the U.S. from 2022–2032 in terms of total output, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
|Industry||Sector||Compound Annual Rate of Output Growth (2022–2032P)|
|Computing infrastructure providers, data processing, and related services||Information||3.9%|
|Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite)||Information||3.6%|
|Home health care services||Health care and social assistance||3.6%|
|Oil and gas extraction||Mining||3.5%|
Three of the fastest-growing industries are in the information sector, underscoring the growing role of technology and digital infrastructure. Meanwhile, the projected growth of the oil and gas extraction industry highlights the enduring demand for traditional energy sources, despite the energy transition.
Overall, the development of these industries suggests that the U.S. will continue its shift toward a services-oriented economy. But today, it’s also worth noticing how services- and goods-producing industries are increasingly tied together. For example, it’s now common for tech companies to produce devices, and for manufacturers to use software in their operations.
Therefore, the oncoming tide of growth in service-based industries could potentially lift other interconnected sectors of the diverse U.S. economy.
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