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Why Your Employer Probably Didn’t Have a Super Bowl Ad

Topics: Work Culture

Well over 100 million people watch the Super Bowl each year, and not all are football fans. Some of us are just there for the dip, the excuse to have a party, and yes, the commercials. But, at up to $5 million for a 30-second spot, air time during the big game isn’t exactly cheap. As a result, we see a lot of commercials from mega-companies selling soda and beer and pharmaceuticals, and not much from small businesses. (Fun exception: Death Wish Coffee, the nine-person coffee company that won Intuit’s Small Business Big Game contest.) What does this mean to you? Well, for one thing, you probably won’t see your employer’s logo pop up during the Super Bowl, unless your bosses get tickets, deck themselves out in corporate swag, and photobomb the TV cameras.

gold bars 

(Photo Credit: New Old Stock)

That’s because, despite the impression you might get from politicians and business executives, nearly half of American workers are employed by businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

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Who Employs American Workers?

According to the United States Census Bureau, large businesses (those with 500 or more employees), employed 51.6 percent of all American workers in 2012, the latest year for which data are available. That’s almost 60 million workers. Furthermore, 2012 was the sixth consecutive year that large businesses employed more than half of American workers.

As you might imagine, some of those big employers have huge workforces. According to analysis from 24/7 Wall Street, the largest American employer is Walmart, which employed 2.2 million workers worldwide and 1.3 million workers in the U.S. in 2013, followed by Yum! Brands, which owns Taco Bell and KFC, with 523,000 employees in 2012, and McDonalds, with 440,000 employees in 2012.

But that doesn’t mean that Super Bowl-sized organizations are the only game in town. Going by those same Census figures, over 56 million workers were employed by companies with fewer than 500 workers in 2012; over 39 million worked for companies with fewer than 100 workers.

Don’t Forget About the Self-Employed

The Census figures include companies with zero employees – “[a]n establishment with 0 employment is an establishment with no paid employees in the mid-March pay period but with paid employees at some time during the year” – but not self-employed workers who don’t have employees. That’s important to note, because self-employed workers made up about 10 percent of the nation’s workforce in 2014, according to Pew Research Center’s analysis, and only about one in four “said they usually have at least one paid employee.”

In other words, on top of the 56 million or so people who work for companies with fewer than 500 employees, we also have to consider 10-plus million workers who are a company unto themselves.

Do We Want to Work for Big Companies?

Economists can – and will – debate which kinds and sizes of company deserve the title of “job creator,” but from an employee perspective, there are upsides and downsides for working for each type.

There are exceptions, but generally speaking, big companies pay better than small ones, and offer more comprehensive benefits. (Note that this rule applies to skilled labor – minimum wage workers will find varying degrees of sympathy toward unions, for example, at the largest employers.) On the other hand, larger organizations tend to be less agile and offer fewer opportunities to make a big difference and impress the boss.

Bottom line, you don’t need to cast your lot with an employer that can buy time during the Super Bowl in order to have financial success. You just need to find a place that will allow you to achieve your own goals.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you prefer working for a big company or a small one? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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