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Farm Labor Report: Hired Workers Down 1%, Wage Rates Up Fractionally

Farm Labor Report: Hired Workers Down 1%, Wage Rates Up Fractionally


There were 1,141,000 hired workers on the nation's farms and ranches during the week of October 9-15, 2011, down 1% from a year ago. Of these hired workers, 828,000 were hired directly by farm operators. Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 313,000 workers.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $11.15/hour during the October 2011 reference week, up 2¢ from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $10.54/hour, up 5¢ from last October, while livestock workers earned $10.67/hour compared with $10.28 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $10.57/hour, was up 14¢ from last year. The number of hours worked averaged 41.6 for hired workers during the survey week, down fractionally from a year ago.

The largest decreases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in California and in the Southern Plains (Oklahoma and Texas), Corn Belt I (Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) and Pacific (Oregon and Washington) regions. In California and in the Pacific region, the wet spring and cooler than normal growing season delayed crop development, lessening the need for hired workers. Wetter conditions compared with last year's reference week kept the demand for hired workers lower in the Corn Belt I region. In the Southern Plains, prolonged drought conditions led to considerable culling of livestock throughout the summer. Therefore, fewer hired workers were needed during the October reference week.

The largest increases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Lake (Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin), Mountain I (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming), Southeast (Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina), Appalachian I (North Carolina and Virginia) and Corn Belt II (Iowa and Missouri) regions. In the Lake, Mountain I and Corn Belt II regions, above-normal temperatures and windy conditions were more than enough to offset minor rain delays, and field activities progressed rapidly. This resulted in a stronger demand for hired workers. In spite of rain in the Southeast region, most fields remained workable due to prolonged earlier dryness. Therefore, harvest and planting activities kept worker demand higher. In the Appalachian I region, increased activity on vegetable operations led to a greater need for hired workers.

Hired worker wage rates were generally above a year ago in most regions. The largest increases occurred in the Northeast I (New England and New York), Delta (Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi), Pacific and Southern Plains regions. In the Northeast I and Pacific regions, the higher wages were due to strong demand from the nursery and greenhouse industry. The higher wages in the Delta region were due to a lower proportion of part-time workers. In the Southern Plains region, there were more salaried workers working fewer hours, which pushed the average wage up.

The 2011 U.S. all hired worker annual average wage rate was $11.07/hour, up 1% from the 2010 annual average wage rate of $10.95. The U.S. field worker annual average wage rate was $10.33/hour, up 14¢ from last year's annual average. The field and livestock combined annual average wage rate at the U.S. level was $10.36, up 1% from last year's annual average wage rate of $10.22.

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