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Corn+Soybean Digest

Farm Labor Report: Hired Workers Up 10%, Wages Down Fractionally

There were 997,000 hired workers on the nation's farms and ranches during the week of April 11-17, 2010, up 10% from a year ago. Of these hired workers, 737,000 were hired directly by farm operators. Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 260,000 workers.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $10.83/hour during the April 2010 reference week, down 1¢ from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $10.04/hour, up 5¢ from last April, while livestock workers earned $10.31/hour compared with $10.25 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $10.13/hour, was up 6¢ from last year. The number of hours worked averaged 39.8 for hired workers during the survey week, down 1% from a year ago.

The largest increases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Corn Belt I (Illinois, Indiana and Ohio), Northeast II (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and Lake (Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin) regions. Weather conditions in all three of these regions were considerably drier than last year's very wet and muddy reference week. This allowed spring fieldwork and planting activities to progress rapidly. Therefore, the demand for hired workers was much higher.

The largest decreases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Southern Plains (Oklahoma and Texas), Southeast (Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina) and Mountain III (Arizona and New Mexico) regions. In the Southern Plains region, heavy rains and flooding occurred in parts of Texas, halting most field activities and lowering the demand for hired workers. Insufficient soil moisture in the Southeast region kept field preparation and planting of spring crops behind normal. This reduced the need for hired workers. In the Mountain III region, vegetable harvest was winding down. Therefore, fewer hired workers were required.

Hired worker wage rates were generally below a year ago in most regions. The largest decreases occurred in the Corn Belt II (Iowa and Missouri), Northeast II, Corn Belt I, Lake, Pacific (Oregon and Washington) and Appalachian I (North Carolina and Virginia) regions. In the Corn Belt I and II and Appalachian I regions, the lower wages were due to a higher percentage of part time workers. There were more salaried workers working more hours in the Northeast II and Pacific regions. This kept hourly wage levels below a year earlier. In the Lake region, reduced demand for highly skilled workers on dairies led to the lower average wage.

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