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Top industries and employers in the Winston-Salem metro area

The economic landscape of Winston-Salem, who’s hiring, and who’s most likely to expand investments into our community.

Brick buildings with smokestack and gray highrises in the background. A parking lot is full of cars in the bottom right corner.

Just another day at the office in the Twin City.

Photo by WStoday

Nearly 191,000 people (and thousands of businesses) contribute to Forsyth County’s $30.4 billion economy. But have you ever wondered about the Twin City’s heaviest hitters?

Consider this your Winston-Salem Business 101 — a guide to six of our region’s key industries and 13 major employers.

The key industries

There are six key industries that represent ~87% of the Winston-Salem metro area’s economy, based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. We’ve listed them in order of employment numbers.

Education and Health Services | ~58,700 employees

Winston-Salem is home to two major health care systems. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is the 81st largest school district nationwide. There are also colleges and universities that support higher education.

Trade, Transportation, and Utilities | ~54,600 employees

This sector deals with wholesale and retail trade, warehousing, transporting passengers + cargo, and providing services like electricity and water. Local logistics and freight companies like Best Logistics Group and Salem Carriers fall in this category.

Professional and Business Services | ~38,500 employees

Many businesses in this industry require a high degree of expertise and training. They specialize in things like legal advice, accounting, payroll services, and engineering. This sector also includes the management of companies and enterprises.

Brick smokestack on the left with buildings around the perimeter. The sky is dark and green grass is in front.

Innovation Quarter is a hub of business and research activity.

Photo by WStoday

Manufacturing | ~34,600 employees

This sector is dedicated to making materials into new products. Winston-Salem based companies manufacture food items, aircraft systems, and medical devices — just to name a few.

Government | ~32,900 employees

Employees in this sector include local (city and county), state, and federal government workers. They manage public services and initiatives that impact the area’s way of life.

Leisure and Hospitality | ~30,500 employees

These employers help people get to know + learn to love the Twin City. Businesses offer accommodations and food services to residents and guests alike, as well as arts, entertainment, and recreation.

The major players

Now that we’ve established the major industries, we bet you’re curious for specific names. Whether you’re job hunting (or just “casually prospecting”), here are 13 major employers — all that employ at least 1,500 workers.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist | 18,570 employees | Health care | Search jobs
The health care system is the largest employer in Forsyth County. It celebrated 100 years of caring for local residents in May 2023 and is now part of the Advocate Health organization.

Novant Health | 11,010 employees | Health care | Search jobs
The health care organization’s roots can be traced back to 1887, before Winston and Salem merged. Today, the system provides care at facilities across the state.

Brown hospital with rows of windows. Flag poles fly out front around landscaped area and a circular paved drive.

Novant Health’s Forsyth Medical Center is located on Silas Creek Parkway.

Photo by David Bjorgen via Novant Health Website

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools | 5,500 employees | Public education | Search jobs
The fourth-largest school system in North Carolina serves more than 53,000 students. Educators and staff work across 42 elementary schools, 15 middle schools, 16 high schools, and eight specialty schools.

Truist | 4,000 employees | Financial services | Search jobs
The sixth-largest bank was formed in 2019 when Winston-Salem based bank BB&T and the Atlanta-based SunTrust merged. There are 10 branches open across Forsyth County.

Wells Fargo | 3,500 employees | Financial services | Search jobs
Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia National Bank — which was founded in Winston-Salem — in 2008. You can find 16 banks and/or ATMs around Forsyth County.

Reynolds American, Inc. | 2,500 employees | Tobacco manufacturing | Search jobs
Founded by tobacco magnate RJ Reynolds in 1875, the company helped put Winston-Salem on the map. Reynolds American is now the parent company of several subsidiaries and a member of the BAT Group.

Hanesbrands Inc. | 2,400 employees | Clothing | Search jobs
From t-shirts to undergarments, the apparel company manufactures and sells garments around the world. The company that started in Winston-Salem in 1901 is now on the Fortune 500 list (No. 458 in 2023).

City of Winston-Salem | 2,287 employees | Government | Search jobs
Work with local government extends beyond City Hall and the Bryce A. Stuart Municipal Building. Employees manage city services like sanitation, utilities, recreation + parks, and public safety.

Wake Forest University | 2,270 employees | Higher education | Search jobs
Forbes magazine ranked the private university the top employer in NC in 2022. Employees don’t just work in academia — the university also employs staff at Reynolda House and Gardens, Graylyn, and other campuses.

Forsyth County | 2,127 employees | Government | Search jobs
The county government manages services for Winston-Salem residents + those outside of city limits. The Department of Public Health, the local NC Cooperative Extension branch, the animal shelter, and many other services and programs fall under Forsyth County’s jurisdiction.

Concrete building with levels of windows. An attached black structure with black columns is attached with full windows top to bottom. A flag pole with a NC flag at half mast is in front.

The Forsyth County Courthouse on North Chestnut Street in downtown Winston-Salem is one place county employees work.

Photo by WStoday

AT&T | 2,000 employees | Communications | Search jobs
The wireless provider has corporate offices on West 5th Street. Employees also work directly with customers at a dozen stores across Forsyth County.

Lowes Foods | 1,500 employees | Grocery chain | Search jobs
The supermarket was founded in 1954 and is headquartered in Winston-Salem. It employs nearly 9,000 people and operates more than 80 stores across the Carolinas.

Collins Aerospace | 1,500 employees | Manufacturing | Search jobs
The manufacturer makes interior cabin systems like seating and lights for aircraft. It has two facilities in Winston-Salem, and more than 250 sites globally.

This information is derived from the most recent data published by Greater Winston-Salem, Inc.

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