Farm employment, wages increase

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The number of workers hired on U.S. farms and ranches increased this summer and fall, as did their wages compared with the same periods a year ago. According to this week’s Farm Labor report from USDA, there were 872,000 hired workers hired directly by farm operators during the week of October 7 to 13, 2012, up more than 5 percent from the reference week in October 2011.

During the week of July 8 to 14, the number totaled 906,000, up nearly 9 percent from the 2011 July reference week.

Wages for farm labor also have improved this year. During the reference week in July, field workers received an average of $10.71 per hour, up more than 4 percent from a year earlier. Livestock workers earned an average of $10.89 per hour, up from $10.29 a year earlier. All farm workers, including supervisors and others besides field and livestock workers, earned an average of $11.36 per hour in July, up nearly 4 percent from their July 2011 pay.

The biggest pay increases in July took place in the Northern Plains region followed by the Eastern Corn Belt.

During the reference week in October, field workers received an average of $11.22 per hour, up over 6 percent from a year earlier, while livestock workers earned just 16 cents per hour more than a year earlier at $10.83. The average pay for all farm workers during October was $11.76, up over 5 percent from October 2011.

October brought a decline in the number of hired workers in some regions compared with last year, with the Iowa and Missouri region reporting declines followed by California. In the Central Corn Belt, drought and early harvest meant fewer workers in the fields during October.

While wages were up in most regions in October, the largest increases occurred in Oregon and Washington followed by the Arizona and New Mexico region.

The full Farm Labor report is available online from USDA.



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