The Top Industries and Employers in the Madison Metro Area

The Madison metro area is a diverse and dynamic region offering various economic opportunities for its residents. According to the Madison Region Economic Partnership, the region’s economy is primarily driven by five key industries, collectively representing around 65% of its economic activity. These industries are:

  • Health Care and Social Services
  • Retail Trade
  • Education
  • Accommodation and Food Services
  • Public Administration

These sectors showcase the region’s strengths in healthcare, bioscience, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, information communications technology, and public employment in government and education. Additionally, the area hosts both prominent national brands and innovative startups, contributing significantly to its economic growth.

Health Care and Social Services

Employing approximately 25% or 127,000 workers in the Madison metro area, this is the largest sector in terms of employment. The region boasts reputable healthcare providers like UW Health, SSM Health, and UnityPoint Health, offering a range of services from traditional hospital care to mental health services, physical therapies, and cutting-edge medical testing. Furthermore, a thriving healthcare startup scene includes companies like Healthfinch, Propeller Health, and Redox, developing innovative solutions for the industry.

Retail Trade

With around 16% or 81,000 workers, the retail trade industry is the second-largest sector in terms of employment. The region features a mix of big-box stores like Target and Walmart, as well as local retailers such as Sub-Zero, Trek Bicycle, and American Girl, offering a diverse range of products. The area also has a robust e-commerce presence, with online retailers like Shopbop, Colony Brands, and Lands’ End operating within the region.


Employing approximately 13% or 68,000 workers, the education sector is the third-largest in terms of employment. Known for its high-quality education system, the region hosts a Big Ten university, local colleges, and a growing K-12 school system. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the flagship institution, boasts over 40,000 students, 20,000 faculty and staff, and serves as a major research hub with significant annual research expenditures and numerous patents and spin-off companies. Other educational institutions in the area include Madison College, Edgewood College, and Madison Area Technical College.

Accommodation and Food Services

With about 11% or 55,000 workers, this industry is the fourth-largest in terms of employment. The region is a popular tourist destination, known for its scenic lakes, parks, trails, and cultural attractions such as the Overture Center, the Monona Terrace, and the State Capitol. The vibrant food and beverage scene boasts over 2,500 businesses offering diverse cuisines, brews, and hospitality services, including notable establishments like The Old Fashioned, Graze, L’Etoile, and New Glarus Brewing Company.

Public Administration

Employing around 10% or 54,000 workers, public administration is the fifth-largest sector in terms of employment. As the seat of the state government, Madison houses the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, and the Supreme Court. Additionally, several federal, county, and municipal agencies provide public services and regulation for the region, with major employers including the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, and the City of Madison.


The Madison metro area provides a diverse range of economic opportunities, supported by five key industries and a mix of national brands and startups. Known for its high-quality education system, natural beauty, and vibrant food scene, the Madison metro area is an excellent place to live, work, and play.

I hope you found this article enjoyable. If you wish to learn more about the Madison metro area, you can explore additional sources.

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