The Top 20 Most Profitable Industries

December 15, 2023

Kentley Insights unveiled its latest research highlighting the top 20 most profitable industries in the United States, shedding light on a complex mix of sectors where financial services, technology, and various service industries take the lead. Only 62% of U.S. companies overall manage to generate net income, and among these profitable companies, the average net income margin stands at 10.9%. This underscores the importance of considering not only the profit margin but also the proportion of profitable companies within an industry and the capital required to operate when assessing an industry’s attractiveness for investment and strategic growth initiatives.

The analysis reveals a varied list of sectors with significant disparities in profitability and operational success rates. Investment banking and securities dealings top the list with a remarkable profit margin of 57.1%, even though less than half of the firms within this sector are profitable. This is followed by activities related to credit intermediation, including loan brokers and check clearing, which enjoy a profit margin of 43.3%. Other high performers include securities and commodity exchanges and international trade financing with profit margins exceeding 40%. Notably, more niche markets such as self-storage and software and game publishing also make the list, suggesting that high returns can be found in less traditional sectors despite a smaller proportion of firms achieving profitability.

The list also provides insights into sectors that, while not leading in terms of profit margin, show a high percentage of profitable companies, such as legal services and savings institutions which demonstrate robust industry health with 77.2% and 84.2% of firms profitable, respectively. Additionally, the presence of manufacturing sectors like computer and peripheral equipment, pharmaceuticals, and semiconductors indicates the enduring profitability potential in foundational industries, essential to technological advancement and healthcare.

The data is from the IRS based on corporate tax returns. You'll find this data set plus many more in our market research reports. As the economic and technological landscapes continue to evolve, such detailed, data-driven insights are critical in steering long-term strategic decisions and fostering sustainable industry growth.

You can click on any of the listed industries for the related Kentley Insights Market Research Report.

The Top 20 Most Profitable Industries in the U.S.

Industry Sector
% Profitable
Profit Margin