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California's 5 Largest Employers

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® - Updated Oct 11, 2018 at 2:09PM

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If you think California's largest employers are big tech companies, think again.

The state of California is home to many big-name employers, and it's well-known for tech companies such as Apple, Google, eBay, and Intel, to name a few. However, you may be surprised to learn that none of these are in the top five -- in fact, only one of the top five isn't a public-sector employer. Here are California's five largest employers as of 2015, according to the latest data.

San Francisco skyline at dawn, with a colorful sky

Image source: Getty Images.

5. University of California, Davis (20,295 employees)
The University of California system has over 150,000 employees among its 10 campuses, medical centers, labs, and offices, and the U.C. Davis campus is one of the largest, with over 20,000 employees on its enormous 5,300-acre campus.

4. Disneyland (26,001)
With just over 26,000 employees, the Disneyland theme park is the fourth-largest employer in California. In addition to the park's employees, another 9,000 employees of the Walt Disney Company are based in the Anaheim area, and a total of 65,700 jobs are supported by the theme park and resort.

3. University of California, Los Angeles (27,489)
With a total of about 42,000 students, the highest enrollment of any college in the state, it makes sense that UCLA would be a top employer. With an ideal location in Los Angeles, bordered by Beverly Hills to the north and Bel Air to the east, as well as a world-class academic reputation, it's no wonder that UCLA receives the most applications of any school in the United States -- more than 112,000 applications for the fall 2015 semester.

2. UCLA Health System (35,543)
The UCLA Health System consists of four hospitals and a wide-reaching network of medical offices, making it the state's second-largest employer. The flagship Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is consistently ranked among the top five hospitals in the U.S. and some of the system's other facilities are also nationally recognized, giving the UCLA Health System the ability to recruit and retain some of the most talented physicians in the U.S.

1. Naval Base San Diego (42,951)
Sometimes referred to as the 32nd Street Naval Station, Naval Base San Diego is the state's largest employer, and is home to the Pacific Fleet and its 54 ships. Occupying more than 2,000 acres, the base is the fourth-largest naval base (by personnel) in the United States.

It's worth noting that there are several California-based companies with more employers than the companies listed here, but I focused on those with the most in-state employees. For example, Apple has about 66,000 employees in the U.S., but just 7,400 of them are at its Cupertino headquarters.

So, while California is known for being the home to the most prominent tech companies in the world, its major employers are mostly in the public sector, which doesn't come as much of a surprise. After all, California is an attractive place to go to school and has some of the best weather on the West Coast, so it makes sense that some of the largest employers there are in the education and military fields.

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