The ad-supported Internet industry responsible for over 10 million American jobs—7.3% of total U.S. nonfarm employment—Doubling contributions from the digital economy in 2012

According to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)-commissioned study, the ad-supported internet generated $1.121 trillion for the U.S. economy last yearIt’s official. The digital economy is booming.

According to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)-commissioned study, the ad-supported internet generated $1.121 trillion for the U.S. economy last year—doubling its 2012 numbers—and is responsible for 7.3 percent of the nation’s total nonfarm employment—double the jobs the industry harnessed back in 2012.

That’s right. The digital economy now supports over 10 million jobs in all 50 states.

The annual employment growth rate in the ad-supported internet sector was 19.6 percent from 2012 to 2016, making the digital economy accountable for six percent of today’s U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). This is indicative of a 20 percent compound annual growth rate in the ecosystem during 2012 to 2016. That’s five times the average American GDP growth during the same period.

The comprehensive study estimated that the commercial internet accounts for six percent of the U.S. GDP, up from 3.7 percent in 2012.

The Report
Led by Baker Foundation Professor and the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School, Professor John Deighton, this is the third iteration of “The Economic Value of the Advertising-Supported Internet Ecosystem” study.

Key factors in stimulating the steady stream of digital jobs during this period include the recent propagation of mobile devices, the shift from shopping to e-commerce outlets, and the gig economy. All signs point to how paramount the digital economy is to the health and expansion of U.S. business at large.

“This industry is behaving like a business in its take-off phase rather than a mature one,” explained Deighton.

The parameters used in the study focused on more than simply the ad business, reports The Wall Street Journal:

“Beyond ad-supported web businesses—such as Google, Facebook, and BuzzFeed—the report includes some digital companies and sectors that aren’t necessarily reliant on ads, such as Uber.”

IAB commissioned the analysis to understand the size, scope, and benefits—both social and economic—of the ecosystem of commerce in the United States that owes its existence to the internet, with a goal to establish facts to “demonstrate the value of the industry to stakeholders including the public, advertisers, and policy makers.”

“The internet has become central to Americans’ day-to-day lives as they read, watch, shop, and connect on digital screens. In turn, the U.S. economy has reaped the benefits, becoming increasingly data driven, stimulating growth at an accelerated pace—the rapid rise associated with the take-off phase of an industry, rather than one that has been established for over two decades,” noted Executive Vice President of Public Policy at IAB, Dave Grimaldi.

Major Industries Flourishing InfographicWhat to Know
Grimaldi noted that the comprehensive jobs report wasn’t an attempt to ward off potential regulation or attention from the U.S. government, but rather an eager means to share that the trade group’s businesses solely coastal enterprises.

The IAB unveiled what may be a surprising finding reality when it comes to the geographic diversity of the digital economy. Jobs in the ad-supported internet economy that fall outside of conventional centers of internet industry concentration—New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Seattle—comprise 86 percent of the sector.

Each and every U.S. congressional district has jobs created by the ad-supported internet—some of the largest job numbers came in from states like North Carolina, Texas, and Utah.  

It’s also worth noting the main sectors that have boosted the ad-supported internet’s value over recent years. Online video was—albeit unshockingly—the most crucial driver of new internet traffic between 2012 and 2016, especially with the mainstream adoption of Over-the-Top (OTT) television.  

(OTT refers to the delivery of film and TV content via the internet, without requiring users to subscribe to a traditional cable or satellite pay-television service.)

More growth sectors shifting modern business models and consumption patterns: e-commerce, on-demand platforms, user-generated content platforms, music-streaming services, and cloud computing.

“The ad-supported digital ecosystem has proved to be a powerful economic driver and job creator in the U.S. This research underscores the industry’s ability to touch lives and support families across the country, fueling the economy from coast-to-coast, whether through big-name companies or mom-and-pop operations that depend on the internet for their livelihoods,” shared said IAB’s President and CEO Randall Rothenberg.

“I’m proud to say that IAB members make up the lion’s share of companies responsible for the largest uptick in new jobs since 2012, and we’ll work together to ensure that digital provides strong economic value to the U.S. in the years to come.”

The full report can be found at: