How the biggest companies in America are impacted by COVID-19

Written by:
May 4, 2020

How the biggest companies in America are impacted by COVID-19

The fast-moving novel coronavirus has case numbers climbing by the hour. President Trump on May 3 revised death toll projections to 100,000 (up from the 60,000-70,000 number he predicted in days prior), lining up more closely with coronavirus task force estimates as deaths in the U.S. crossed 67,000 the same day. With the pandemic comes financial calamity: More than 30 million Americans to file unemployment claims in six weeks between March and April due to business closures and reductions in the workforce. With no end in sight, jobless rates could approach 50 million for a final unemployment rate of 32%—nearly one in three Americans. By comparison, the jobless rate peaked at roughly one in four Americans—about 25%—during the Great Depression.

As the reality of the pandemic began to set in, the stock market plunged into freefall, followed by a period of historic volatility. Millions of workers were furloughed or laid off, and small businesses across the country are now teetering on the precipice of disaster, as their customers are stuck at home in an unprecedented societal shutdown.

In the center of it all is America’s vast and sprawling network of businesses. While small businesses are receiving much of the attention, the country’s major corporations employ millions of people—and many of them are under incredible strain and facing an uncertain future. Holding company Berkshire Hathaway, which owns a large portfolio of businesses including Geico and Duracell, reported a $49.7 billion loss in the first quarter; and clothing and accessories retailer J. Crew on May 4 announced it had filed for bankruptcy.

To find out how the biggest companies in the U.S. are adjusting to COVID-19's impacts, Stacker mined 2018 employment data from Statista. Keep reading to find out what’s happening to them and how they’re responding to the pressure.

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#50. Schlumberger

- Employees: 100,000
- Revenue: $32.8 billion

Schlumberger is an energy products and services company that employs more than 100,000 people and does business across 120 countries—that’s a difficult beast to reign in during a health crisis. The company has developed an outbreak management plan, which is available for download on its website, and has also created an app dedicated to managing the virus. Schlumberger announced a 2020 first-quarter loss of $7.4 billion.

#49. Abbott Laboratories

- Employees: 103,000
- Revenue: $30.6 billion

One of the few companies that stand to benefit from the crisis is Abbott Laboratories. The company recently made headlines when President Trump publicly praised it for developing a quick COVID-19 test, although it turns out that only around 5,500 are ready for release. Abbott shares rose by 16.7% in April 2020.

#48. Caterpillar

- Employees: 104,000
- Revenue: $54.7 billion

Blue-chip bellwether company Caterpillar is struggling with a significant virus-related slowdown. It was already grappling with a stumbling economy in China and trouble in the commodities market when the virus began to spread. It recently released terrible retail sales numbers that revealed a drop of 11% for the three months ending in February. That news was followed by an announcement April 30 of layoffs to reduce operational costs.

#47. Lockheed Martin

- Employees: 105,000
- Revenue: $53.8 billion

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has not suffered a significant disruption to its operations, and in fact on April 30 secured a $6.1 billion deal to produce an undisclosed number of missiles for the U.S. Army. The Pentagon, in fact, has increased payments to defense contractors, which companies like Lockheed have then passed onto struggling suppliers in the form of advance payments.

#46. General Dynamics

- Employees: 105,600
- Revenue: $36.2 billion

General Dynamics provides critical platforms for the U.S. military. The Pentagon has taken action across the defense industry to insulate companies like General Dynamics from economic upheaval associated with the outbreak, however revenues for the first quarter of 2020 were posted at 5.4% below expectations.


#45. Intel

- Employees: 107,400
- Revenue: $70.8 billion

The first two Intel employees—both construction workers—tested positive for coronavirus in late March and early April, respectively. Intel did not close its facilities in response, although it did report that it’s cleaning them more thoroughly and more frequently.

#44. Honeywell International

- Employees: 114,000
- Revenue: $41.8 billion

Honeywell donated $2 million worth of equipment to crisis managers in Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated. Stateside, the company ramped up production of face masks, a critical piece of personal protection equipment (PPE) that has been in short supply.

#43. Tyson Foods

- Employees: 121,000
- Revenue: $40.1 billion

As part of a preemptive measure, Tyson Foods changed its policy to no longer punishes workers for taking sick days (although it wasn't offering paid sick leave). Company executives on April 27 published a full-page ad in the New York Post, Washington Times, and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette claiming "the food supply chain is breaking." The ad further stated that employees would not be subject to co-pyas, co-insurance, or deductibles for coronavirus testing. Close to 900 workers at the Logansport, Indiana, food plant (about 40% of the workforce there) tested positive for COVID-19 and forced a 14-daty shutdown of the plant, which was scheduled to reopen the first week of May.

#42. Best Buy

- Employees: 125,000
- Revenue: $42.9 billion

Best Buy closed all of its retail locations in response to the coronavirus crisis and, in a massive and sweeping change, moved to a business model based solely on curbside pickup and deliveries. It began by keeping stores open for limited hours with no more than 15 customers allowed inside at one time, but by late March, it became clear that that plan was unsustainable.

#41. American Airlines Group

- Employees: 128,900
- Revenue: $44.5 billion

The travel industry was hamstrung by a steep drop in demand as self-quarantining becomes the norm. American Airlines in April announced it was slashing its summer schedule by 60% and postponed the opening of new routes. Major U.S. airlines including American now all require passengers to wear masks, among other safety precautions.


#40. Macy's

- Employees: 130,000
- Revenue: $25.7 billion

Macy’s was struggling along with other retail giants well ahead of the coronavirus crisis. Amid the pandemic, the company in March announced its CEO wouldn't be taking a salary and that high-ranking executives would soon see their own pay cuts. Macy’s had already furloughed most of its 130,000 employees.

#39. Microsoft

- Employees: 131,000
- Revenue: $110.4 billion

Microsoft quickly developed a tool that anyone can use to track coronavirus cases and recoveries across the world and individually in every U.S. state. At the same time, the company has seen a huge uptick in its videoconferencing and cloud services, as homebound people everywhere turn to streaming software to communicate with family, friends, and co-workers.

#38. Apple

- Employees: 132,000
- Revenue: $265.6 billion

Early in the crisis, Apple stores remained open, but the company offered unlimited paid sick leave to hourly and retail workers who displayed possible symptoms. By the end of March, however, the situation escalated and forced Apple to close all of its retail locations indefinitely.

#37. Dollar General

- Employees: 135,000
- Revenue: $25.6 billion

Dollar General is in a good position not only to weather the storm, but to improve its position. During difficult economic times, consumers flock to outlets that offer cheap staples. Dollar General is actually hiring workers to meet demand, although they’ve reduced store hours and set aside special times for elderly customers to shop. Gains for the retailer at the end of April were the result of some states beginning the process of re-opening, according to reporting from Jeremy Bowman at the Motley Fool.

#36. Johnson & Johnson

- Employees: 135,100
- Revenue: $81.6 billion

Johnson & Johnson’s stock is down 10% this year, but it hasn’t suffered the way some in the industry have. The company is one of the lead developers of a potential vaccine, although it’s in a highly competitive race to that end against players like Gilead Sciences and Moderna.

#35. Oracle

- Employees: 137,000
- Revenue: $39.8 billion

Oracle founder Larry Ellison gave a rare interview to Angel Au-Yeung at Forbes, published April 1, 2020, in which he revealed he’s using his company’s prowess for big data to pitch into the fight against the virus. After learning that no clearinghouse for medical information existed, he launched a project to build a database for doctors and other medical professionals to enter and share information.

#34. Verizon Communications

- Employees: 144,500
- Revenue: $130.9 billion

With stay-at-home orders keeping millions of people at home and in isolation, communication companies like Verizon are playing a crucial role—and the telecom giant has responded. Verizon gave 15GB of extra data to all of its customers and waived overages and late fees for those affected.

#33. Boeing

- Employees: 153,000
- Revenue: $101.1 billion

Boeing could qualify for as much as $17 billion in bailout money delivered by the recently-passed federal stimulus bill, as a business that’s critical to national security—a controversial provision that has sparked fierce debate. While Boeing fills defense contracts, it’s also a major player in the devastated airline industry.

#32. Dell Technologies

- Employees: 157,000
- Revenue: $90.6 billion

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation donated $100 million in cash and tech to the fight against coronavirus. The company, along with Microsoft, lowered projected revenue forecasts and announced that it’s struggling with a CPU shortage.

#31. General Motors

- Employees: 173,000
- Revenue: $147.0 billion

President Trump used wartime powers to force GM—along with Ford and others—to produce badly-needed ventilators after he publicly criticized GM over disputes about pricing and supply. Financial expert David Whiston told the Detroit Free Press in April that he estimated the company was spending around $130 million a day to cover operating costs—fromsalaries to utilities—even as plants remained shuttered.


#30. Comcast

- Employees: 184,000
- Revenue: $94.5 billion

Like Verizon, Comcast and its sprawling communication infrastructure are playing a crucial role in the crisis. Among its responses to the pandemic were decisions to open Comcast's national network for free, offer unlimited data for free, and offer assistance to low-income subscribers.

#29. Costco Wholesale

- Employees: 194,000
- Revenue: $141.6 billion

Costco recently experienced a drop in store traffic for the first time in weeks at the end of March that came on the heels of the shelf-emptying blitz that was the hallmark of initial coronavirus fears. The company has since instituted distancing rules for customers that do shop in physical stores.

#28. Ford Motor

- Employees: 199,000
- Revenue: $160.3 billion

Ford has closed virtually all of its factories worldwide. At the same time, it’s unveiled assistance efforts for consumers in the form of relief for customers having trouble making payments. On the supply side, the company was ordered to produce ventilators and other critical devices.

#27. The Walt Disney Company

- Employees: 201,000
- Revenue: $59.4 billion

Although Disney is a massive company with enormous media holdings, its parks have been shut down and many of its workers furloughed. The company outraged corporate brass when it announced pay cuts at the executive level.

#26. Publix Super Markets

- Employees: 202,000
- Revenue: $36.4 billion

Several Publix employees have tested positive for coronavirus, but grocery stores and pharmacies are considered critical businesses, so their stores are staying open. The company in early April announced expanded pharmacy hours and created special hours exclusively for seniors.


#25. Citigroup

- Employees: 204,000
- Revenue: $97.1 billion

When Citigroup employees tested positive early in the coronavirus crisis, the company by mid-March ordered all workers who could work from home to do so. The financial giant has also unveiled consumer-relief protocols including fee waivers, penalty eliminations, and mortgage hardship assistance.

#24. Bank of America Corp.

- Employees: 204,489
- Revenue: $110.6 billion

By the end of March, Bank of America had joined most other big financial institutions in offering relief to affected customers. The BOA Client Assistance Program includes things like fee waivers, payment deferments, and small-business incentives.

#23. HCA Healthcare

- Employees: 229,000
- Revenue: $46.7 billion

Health industry giant HCA is at the forefront of the coronavirus crisis. Even so, many of its workers are suffering from reduced (or eliminated) hours because of closures at most of the company's outpatient facilities, departments, and clinics.

#22. United Technologies

- Employees: 240,200
- Revenue: $66.5 billion

Aviation giant UTC is merging with defense contractor Raytheon to become Raytheon Technologies Corp. UTC’s stock was battered during the coronavirus crisis and by mid-March, it announced it was cutting spending—including research and development—and freezing hiring.

#21. Lowe's

- Employees: 245,000
- Revenue: $71.3 billion

Lowe’s, along with other essential businesses, has instituted customer distancing and limiting protocols. They also gave their workers a temporary, $2 an hour raise and donated masks to frontline workers.

#20. JPMorgan Chase & Co.

- Employees: 256,105
- Revenue: $131.4 billion

Dozens of JPMorgan Chase employees have tested positive for coronavirus and many more have been quarantined. The company was under fire for fueling the crisis by pressuring its traders and other employees to report to work in Manhattan, despite an outbreak of the disease and pleas from health and government officials to stay home.

#19. Wells Fargo

- Employees: 258,700
- Revenue: $101.1 billion

Wells Fargo adapted quickly to the crisis and by mid-March, more than 60,000 of the bank’s employees had been transitioned to working remotely. For its customers, the bank has suspended evictions, vehicle repossessions, and foreclosure sales, and donated $175 million.

#18. Albertsons Cos.

- Employees: 267,000
- Revenue: $60.5 billion

Since grocery stores are critical businesses, Albertsons stores can’t close, but the company has taken major precautionary measures. It installed plexiglass barriers at all of the more than 2,200 Albertsons stores in America and suspended self-serve operations like soup and salad bars. The chain is also offering “appreciation pay” bonuses to union and non-union employees.

#17. PepsiCo

- Employees: 267,000
- Revenue: $64.7 billion

PepsiCo announced at the end of March that it was enhancing employee benefits to all employees and hiring an additional 6,000 full-time, full-benefits workers. It also unveiled an $11 million investment in critical community support.

#16. AT&T

- Employees: 268,220
- Revenue: $170.8 billion

Like Verizon, AT&T owns and maintains critical communication infrastructure that has held up well so far despite massive increases in demand and usage. The company also launched several programs to help consumers cope, including 15GB of free data, discounted accessories, and free express shipping.


#15. TJX Companies, Inc.

- Employees: 270,000
- Revenue: $39.0 billion

On March 20, off-price retailer TJX—known for popular brands such as T.J. Maxx, Homegoods, and Marshalls—announced it was closing all of its stores not only in the United States, but in Europe, Canada, and Australia, as well. To make matters worse for the company, even its online business will not be operational for the foreseeable future.

#14. General Electric

- Employees: 283,000
- Revenue: $120.3 billion

It’s dark times for GE, which responded to the crisis by announcing that it planned to lay off 50% of its maintenance, overhaul, and repair employees for 90 days. The company has said it expects the decision to save the company $500 million to $1 billion. GE workers and the union that represents them protested the move and demanded that GE instead reassign those workers to the production of ventilators.

#13. CVS Health

- Employees: 295,000
- Revenue: $194.6 billion

CVS was in turmoil in mid-to-late March as customers stormed the chain’s stores and emptied its shelves. Workers soon began petitioning for improved paid sick leave and other enhanced benefits, some of which they’ve received. Employees also demanded PPE like gloves and masks. CVS Health had a 200% increase in mental health visits between March 1 and May 4 over the year prior, according to reporting from PR Newswire.

#12. Walgreens Boots Alliance

- Employees: 299,000
- Revenue: $131.5 billion

Walgreens, like other major drug/convenience store chains, saw a massive initial bump from a surge of early panic buying. Same-store sales jumped by 26% in the first 21 days of March. The last week of the month, however, sales plummeted by percentage points approaching the mid-teens, as stock-up buyers stayed home. The company on May 4 announced it would ask all customers coming into the store to wear masks.

#11. UnitedHealth Group

- Employees: 300,000
- Revenue: $226.2 billion

UnitedHealth Group expanded member services and waived out-of-pocket cost-sharing expenses associated with coronavirus-related testing and medical visits. It also delivered patient-administered tests to 46,000 of its doctors.

[Pictured: (L-R) Anthem CEO Gail Boudreaux, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. President Donald Trump, UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann, and others listen to an attendee speak to the press after a meeting about the coronavirus with members of the insurance industry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House March 10, 2020, in Washington D.C.]


#10. FedEx

- Employees: 359,530
- Revenue: $65.5 billion

The delivery services industry has been a lifeline for millions of Americans who are afraid to go to stores and are instead ordering delivery of everything that can be delivered. Thousands of FedEx employees, particularly drivers, are anxious, exposed, and vulnerable. The company has been working to reduce the risks those drivers take every day—not to mention the risk of asymptomatic but infected drivers spreading the virus to the customers whose packages they handle.

#9. Target

- Employees: 360,000
- Revenue: $75.4 billion

Target is open, but by mid-March, it had limited store hours and created special shopping hours for vulnerable customers. In early April, however, it extended its safety precautions by dedicating staff members to pass out PPE like gloves and masks, and by limiting the number of customers allowed in each store at any given time.

#8. United Parcel Service

- Employees: 364,575
- Revenue: $71.9 billion

Like FedEx, UPS is one of the major players in an industry that is now being recognized as the backbone of American life during the coronavirus crisis. Also like FedEx, it’s focused on accommodating legions of drivers who are nervous and anxious—and for good reason. They have lots of daily human contact, they can’t self-quarantine, and they’re scrambling to get even basic PPE to protect them on their routes.

#7. International Business Machines

- Employees: 381,100
- Revenue: $79.6 billion

IBM’s Summit supercomputer—the fastest and most powerful computer in the world—has been very busy during the crisis. After running 8,000 simulations, Summit identified 77 chemical compounds that are likely to inhibit the virus’ ability to attack host cells.

#6. Berkshire Hathaway

- Employees: 389,000
- Revenue: $247.8 billion

Warren Buffett is working from home—and the Oracle of Omaha has his work cut out for him. His Berkshire Hathaway firm reported a $49.7 billion loss in the first quarter of 2020. The holding company owns a large portfolio of businesses including Geico, Fruit of the Loom, and Duracell.

#5. Home Depot

- Employees: 413,000
- Revenue: $108.2 billion

Public officials have lauded Home Depot for the early and sweeping changes it made companywide in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. The company was an early adopter of now-standard policies like limiting the number of customers allowed in a store at any given time.

#4. Kroger

- Employees: 453,000
- Revenue: $121.2 billion

Kroger is one of many chains now experimenting with one-way aisles to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Also, Kroger announced even though it experienced a 30% surge in sales, it borrowed $1 billion to deal with the fallout from the crisis.

#3. U.S. Postal Service

- Employees: 565,802
- Revenue: $70.7 billion

Like FedEx and UPS, the USPS is presiding over an army of drivers that it can’t keep home but can’t protect. They’re exposed, vulnerable, and dramatically undersupplied. The coronavirus has put extra strain on the already-stressed USPS as mail volume has significantly dropped.


- Employees: 647,500
- Revenue: $232.9 billion

As other companies are laying off workers, Amazon hired 100,000 new employees to meet soaring demand. Many of those workers, however, say the company isn’t doing enough to protect them and have begun enacting protests that included a walkout Friday, May 1.

#1. Walmart

- Employees: 2.2 million
- Revenue: $514.4 billion

Walmart, too, has taken measures to protect its workers and customers, but the world’s largest retailer waited until the first week of April to limit the numbers of shoppers allowed in its stores at the same time. More than 80 employees at one Walmart branch in Massachusetts were reported on May 3 to have tested positive for coronavirus.

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