If someone asks you to name the metro area’s biggest employers, you’ll probably think of banks, utilities, hospitals and such.

StockTeacherInClass73113Such businesses do provide a lot of jobs, but school districts plus colleges and universities also are big employers. For instance, the 15 school districts that serve the seven-county metro area employ nearly 60,000 people.

Prompted by recent top-employer lists published by our partners at the Denver Business Journal, EdNews took a look at that data and some other stats to get a sense for how big a factor educational institutions are the employment picture.

The federal and state governments top the DBJ’s list, at about 40,000 and 33,000 employees respectively. Wal-Mart is the largest private employer, at nearly 25,000 workers.

Not far behind is the University of Colorado System at 17,356, according to DBJ, ahead of Centura Health and Xcel Energy.

Metro-area district employment

  • Jeffco – 11,099
  • DPS – 11,061
  • Dougco – 7,006
  • Cherry Creek – 6,833
  • Aurora – 4,600
  • Adams 12 – 4,568
  • Boulder – 4,333
  • St. Vrain – 3,258
  • Littleton – 1,979
  • Brighton – 1,563
  • Westminster – 1,175
  • Commerce City – 971
  • Mapleton – 845
  • Englewood – 417
  • Sheridan – 271
  • TOTAL – 59,925

Source: Colorado Department of Education. Figures are employee head counts so include full-time and part-time staff.

The next-largest education employers are the Jeffco Schools at 11,099 and the Denver Public Schools at 11,061, ahead of Denver city government and private employers HCA-HealthOne and Safeway.

The Douglas County (7,006) and Cherry Creek (6,833) are in the same range as private companies like Century Link and Wells Fargo. The University of Denver isn’t far behind at 6,021 employees, according to DBJ.

The Aurora, Adams12 and Boulder school districts each employ more than 4,000 people apiece.

School districts, of course, employ more than principals and teachers. Jeffco, for instance, has 5,093 of those but also 1,999 administrators and support professionals, 2,299 paraprofessionals and 1,708 service employees. The CDE collects employment totals in nine different occupational areas. Statewide, the department reported head count employment of 109,830 in the state’s school districts during 2012-13.

Beyond school districts, higher education institutions are significant employers both in the metro area and statewide.

But college and university employment figures are notoriously hard to tabulate. State colleges don’t report staff numbers to the Department of Higher Education, and they report only partial stats to the legislative Joint Budget Committee. Many higher education positions are part-time, making calculations complicated.

One rough measure of higher education employment is contained in the State Taxpayer Accountability Report, the most recent version of which was compiled for the 2010-11 budget year. That document estimated education employment (not counting K-12 employees) at the equivalent of 38,038 full-time employees.

Note: School district employment figures are taken from annual statistics compiled by the Colorado Department of Education, not from DBJ.