The largest group of people working in this field are the animators, who use either computer platforms or low-technology methods such as drawing cels or photographing stop-motion frames. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 71,600 multimedia artists and animators were employed in the United States in 2018. About 59 percent of these workers are self-employed, a very high number. The motion picture and video industry employs approximately 8,600; another 4,000 work in computer systems design; 3,700 work for software publishers; and about 2,400 work for firms that do advertising, public relations, and related services. California is the state with the largest number of wage-earning animators, followed by Texas and New York.
About 3,400 writers work in the motion picture and video industry, many of whom work on animated projects all or some of the time. The industry also offers opportunities for production managers, but with so many self-employed animators running their own operations, there are probably fewer opportunities than in more vertically organized industries.
A comprehensive industry database lists about 1,464 animation production companies and 581 visual effects companies in the United States. Of these, about 1,145 focus on 3-D computer animation, 709 on 2-D computer animation, 564 on traditional animation, 518 on Flash and other Internet technologies, and 119 on clay animation (a stop-motion technique that uses clay figures). About 131 U.S. companies work with motion capture and almost 190 in game development. Approximately 120 firms offer voice talent for animation and 277 visual effects software vendors are listed. Again, many of these companies are one-person shops.
The database also lists 767 advertising agencies that work with animation and 415 schools that teach animation, ranging from small, specialized career schools to traditional colleges such as Brigham Young University, which has a computer animation program that accepts 20–25 students annually.
Of those animators who work for large employers, many belong to the Animation Guild, a union that is concentrated in southern California. The largest fractions of its members work at the Dreamworks and Disney studios. Other unions that represent workers in this industry are the Directors Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild. The International Animated Film Association (Association Internationale du Film d'Animation) or ASIFA has affiliated chapters in industry hot spots, mostly for the purposes of hosting film festivals and giving awards.