Farm employment and wages on the rise

News
Nov 23, 2012

Despite widespread drought in the majority of farm land areas, farm employment and wages increased both during the summer and fall months compared to year ago numbers.

According to last week’s USDA Farm Labor report, there were 906,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on the nation’s farms and ranches during the week of July 8-14, 2012, up nearly 9 percent from the July 2011 reference week. Workers hired directly by farm operators numbered 872,000 for the reference week of Oct. 7-13, 2012, up more than 5 percent from the October 2011 reference week.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $11.36 per hour during the July 2012 reference week, up nearly 4 percent from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $10.71 per hour, up more than 4 percent, while livestock workers earned $10.89 per hour compared with $10.29 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $10.75 per hour, was up 47 cents from last year. The number of hours worked averaged 40.4 for hired workers during the reference week, down a little over 2 percent from July 2011.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $11.76 per hour during the October 2012 reference week, up over 5 percent from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $11.22 per hour, up over 6 percent from a year earlier. Livestock workers earned $10.83, up 16 cents. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $11.13 per hour, was up 56 cents from a year earlier. The number of hours worked averaged 41.5 for hired workers during the reference week, nearly the same as hours worked in October 2011.

July reference week

For the July reference week, the largest percentage increases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Northeast II (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) region followed by the Corn Belt I (Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) region. Good field conditions and continuing increases in principal field crop acreage prompted increased demand across many farm types in Northeast II, while drought conditions in Corn Belt I led to both early silage harvest and supplemental feeding of livestock in some areas.

The largest percentage decreases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Appalachian II (Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia) region followed by the Corn Belt II (Iowa and Missouri) region. Wet conditions prevailed in Appalachian II and fewer workers were in the field during the reference week this year. In Corn Belt II, the drought conditions led to decreased labor demand for field crop and hay operations.

Hired worker wage rates were above the previous year rates in the majority of regions. The largest increases occurred in the Northern Plains (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) region followed by the Corn Belt I region. Increases in the wage rate for field and livestock workers, plus a slight increase in the proportion of supervisory and other workers, was seen in both regions.

October reference week

For the October reference week, the largest percentage increases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Appalachian II (Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia) region followed by the Northeast II (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) region. Strong demand for tobacco, field crop, and livestock workers was seen in Appalachian II and increased demand in North east II across many farm types.

The largest percentage decreases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Corn Belt II (Iowa and Missouri) region followed by California. In Corn Belt II, early harvest of principle crops meant less workers in the field during the reference week this year and California saw decreases in hired worker demand from primarily nurseries and fruit and nut operations.

Hired worker wage rates were above the previous year rates in the majority of regions. The largest increases occurred in the Pacific (Oregon and Washington) region followed by the Mountain III (Arizona and New Mexico) region. The field and livestock worker wage was up substantially in the Pacific region. Increases in the wage rate for field and livestock workers, plus a slight increase in the proportion of supervisory and other workers, were seen in the Mountain III region. — Traci Eatherton,WLJ Editor

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