Hiring on nation’s farms up 15 percent as wage rates edge up from last year


WASHINGTON – There were 1,077,000 hired workers on the nation’s farms and ranches during the week of April 11-17, up 15 percent from a year ago, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Of these hired workers, 825,000 workers were hired directly by farm operators.

Wage rates up. Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 252,000 workers. Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $9.22 per hour during the April 2004 reference week, up 6 cents from a year earlier.

Field workers received an average of $8.46 per hour, up 6 cents from last April, while livestock workers earned $8.95 per hour compared with $8.75 a year earlier.

The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $8.58 per hour, was up 9 cents from last year.

Hours up too. Number of hours worked averaged 40.7 hours for hired workers during the survey week, up 1 percent from a year ago.

The largest increases in number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Pacific (Oregon and Washington) Southeast (Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina), Appalachian II (Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia) and Mountain I (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) regions, and in California.

Crops two weeks ahead. In the Pacific region and California, the development of fruit, vegetables and spring planted crops was nearly two weeks ahead of normal, which heightened the demand for hired workers. Although moderate rains fell in parts of the Southeast region, the majority of the region remained drier than normal.

Irrigation of cropland increased and supplemental feeding of livestock became active as pastures deteriorated, both of which caused greater demand for hired workers.

In the Appalachian II region, continued expansion in the equine and poultry industries kept the demand for livestock workers at a high level.

In the Mountain I region, above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation led to increased farm and ranch activity, which caused a greater need for hired workers.

Some declines. The largest decreases in the number of hired farm workers from a year ago were in the Corn Belt I (Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio), Delta (Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi), Southern Plains (Oklahoma and Texas), Northeast I (New York and New England) and Appalachian I (North Carolina and Virginia) regions.

In the Corn Belt I region, declining cattle and poultry inventories lessened the need for livestock workers.

Cool and wet. Cool temperatures and wet conditions in the Northeast I and Appalachian I regions limited field activity, causing fewer hired workers to be needed. Hired farm worker wage rates were generally above a year ago in most regions.

The largest increases occurred in the Appalachian II, Mountain I, Pacific and Mountain III (Arizona and New Mexico) regions.

The higher wages in the Appalachian II region were mainly because of a higher percentage of equine workers in the work force. In the Mountain I region, wages were up due to a larger concentration of salaried workers putting in fewer hours.

Skilled worker demand. The higher wages in the Pacific region were because of the increased skilled worker demand for the rapidly developing fruit. In the Mountain III region, wages were up because of a higher proportion of full-time, salaried workers in the work force.


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