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USDA’s Farm Labor Survey

December 20, 2019

USDA’s Farm Labor Survey surveys farmers twice a year to obtain estimates of employment and average hourly earnings for workers who are hired directly by farm operators. Data are collected for the week that includes the 12th of the month, and reported for 15 multistate regions and three states, California, Florida, and Hawaii. Data for January and April are collected in April, and data for July and October are collected in October.

The FLS does not collect employment and earnings data for workers brought to farms by farm labor contractors.

The average hourly gross wage rates for field and livestock workers in 2019, the data used to set the Adverse Effect Wage Rate for employers of H-2A guest workers, were $13.99, up almost six percent from 2018. Hourly field and livestock wages ranged from a low of less than $12 in the Southeastern states and FL to almost $16 in OR and WA. In 2019, US field workers earned an average $14.11 an hour and livestock workers earned $13.74; all hired workers earned an average of almost $15.

The largest category of workers are farm workers, crop, nursery and greenhouse (SOC 45-2092). They earned an average gross wage of $13.98 in 2019, with a range of less than $12 an hour in the Appalachian I states of NC and VA, the southeastern states, and Florida, to $16 an hour in OR and WA.

Gross wages include overtime and bonus pay, piece rate earnings, and the worker’s share of social security and other payroll taxes. Base wages that exclude these items were $13.33 across the US, five percent lower than gross wages. The gap between gross and base wages was largest in the Pacific states of OR and WA and smallest in Appalachia and the southeastern states.

Agricultural equipment operators (SOC 45-2091) had an average gross wage of $14.58, with a range from just over $12 an hour in the southeast and Florida to $16 an hour or more in OR and WA and the Northern Plains states of the Dakotas, Kansas, and Nebraska. First-line supervisors (SOC 45-1011) earned an average gross wage of $21.37 an hour, with a range from less than $20 an hour in the southeastern states to over $23 an hour in California.

In 2019, the average annual employment of directly hired farm workers was 685,000, down slightly from 2018. The average employment of the directly hired farm workers was 152,000 in CA, followed by 77,000 in OR and WA, 56,000 in the Lake states of MI, MN, and WI, and 43,000 in the Southern Plains states of OK and TX. These four regions accounted for almost half of average direct hire employment.

Average weekly hours worked were 41, up slightly from 2018. Weekly hours ranged from a low of 36 in Hawaii to 46 in the Mountain III states of AZ and NM.

FLS direct hire employment peaked in July 2019 at 843,000, including 70 percent of workers who were expected to be employed on the responding farm for 150 days or more. The only region with more workers expected to be employed less than 150 days on the responding farm than more than 150 days was the Pacific states of OR and WA, where 57 percent of workers were expected to be employed on the responding farm less than 150 days.

In July 2019, two-thirds of workers were employed on crop farms and one third on livestock farms; almost all crop workers were employed in fruits, vegetables, and greenhouses. Over 60 percent of hired workers were employed on farms with gross sales of $1 million or more, and over a third of workers were employed on farms with 51 or more workers.

Reliability. About 11,000 farm establishments were in the FLS sample in 2018, but almost 36,000 were asked to provide labor data in 2019. In both years, about half of the farms in the sample provided data, ranging from a low of 41 percent in the Pacific states of OR and WA to a high of 57 percent in the Southern Plains states of OK and TX.

The FLS provides a coefficient of variation or relative standard deviation, the standard deviation divided by the mean of the sample, to assess the reliability of its employment and earnings estimates. Lower coefficients of variation indicate more reliable data. US estimates are more reliable than regional estimates.

The Census Bureau advises that coefficients of variation over 15 percent should be used with care. For all estimates, the coefficient of variation decreased between 2018 and 2019, indicating more reliable estimates.

The average annual gross wages of field and livestock workers were $13.99 in 2019

Annual Average Gross Wage Rates - Regions and United States: 2018 and 2019 *
Regions and United States Field Livestock Field and Livestock All Hired
2018 2019 2018 2019 2018 2019 2018 2019
  Dollars per hour
Northeast I $13.48 $14.65 N/A $13.81 $13.25 $14.29 $14.19 $15.39
Northeast II $13.22 $13.42 N/A $13.12 $13.15 $13.34 $13.95 $14.63
Appalachain I $12.27 $12.74 N/A $12.25 $12.25 $12.67 $12.91 $13.30
Appalachain II $11.58 $12.26 N/A $11.63 $11.63 $12.40 $12.51 $13.16
Southeast $11.80 $11.76 N/A $11.13 $11.13 $11.71 $11.96 $12.38
Florida $11.21 $11.75 N/A $11.24 $11.24 $11.71 $12.13 $12.58
Lake $13.64 $14.88 N/A $13.54 $13.54 $14.40 $14.16 $15.04
Cornbelt II $13.23 $14.68 N/A $13.26 $13.26 $14.52 $14.28 $15.37
Cornbelt II $13.46 $14.35 N/A $13.34 $13.34 $14.58 $14.00 $15.26
Delta $11.41 $11.74 N/A $11.33 $11.33 $11.83 $11.84 $12.21
Northern Plains $15.21 $16.24 N/A $14.38 $14.38 $14.99 $15.10 $15.72
Southern Plains $12.04 $12.30 N/A $12.23 $12.23 $12.67 $12.93 $13.46
Mountain I $13.24 $13.36 N/A $13.48 $13.48 $13.62 $14.12 $14.46
Mountain II $12.81 $14.19 N/A $13.13 $13.13 $14.26 $14.03 $14.95
Mountain III $11.64 $12.39 N/A $12.00 $12.00 $12.91 $12.84 $13.61
Pacific $15.30 $15.91 N/A $15.03 $15.03 $15.83 $15.62 $16.37
California $13.86 $14.71 N/A $13.92 $13.92 $14.77 $15.41 $16.21
Hawaii $14.45 $14.72 N/A $14.72 $14.73 $14.90 $16.43 $16.61
United States $13.32 $14.11 N/A $13.25 $13.25 $13.99 $14.17 $14.91
* Excludes agricultural service workers and Alaska. Annual rates are averages of the published wage rates for each survey week weighted by the number of hours worked during the week

Gross wages for crop workers (45-2092) ranged from $12 to $16 an hour in 2019

Annual Average Gross Wage Rate and Base Wage Rate by Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System - Regions and United States: 2019 *
Regions1 and United States Farmworkers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse
SOC Code (45-2092)
Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals
SOC Code (45-2093)
Gross Wage Base Wage Gross Wage Base Wage
  Dollars per hour
Northeast I $14.52 $14.23 $13.72 $13.19
Northeast II $13.10 $12.81 $12.66 $12.46
Appalachain I $12.54 $12.43 $12.30 $12.29
Appalachain II $11.51 $11.37 $12.47 $12.09
Southeast $11.74 $11.66 $11.76 $11.70
Florida $11.52 $11.38 $11.47 $11.45
Lake $14.91 $14.45 $14.04 $13.70
Cornbelt II $13.73 $13.25 $13.75 $13.54
Cornbelt II $13.92 $13.53 $14.76 $14.62
Delta $11.30 $11.19 $12.03 $11.00
Northern Plains $14.23 $14.02 $13.47 $13.20
Southern Plains $12.35 $11.92 $12.61 $12.51
Mountain I $13.75 $13.34 $13.78 $13.67
Mountain II $13.68 $13.47 $14.12 $13.65
Mountain III $12.27 $11.62 $13.57 $13.37
Pacific $16.00 $14.73 $14.96 $14.60
California $14.56 $13.64 $14.93 $13.63
Hawaii $14.33 $13.79 $16.31 $15.81
United States $13.98 $13.33 $13.60 $13.22
* Excludes agricultural service workers and Alaska. Annual rates are averages of the published wage rates for each survey week weighted by the number of hours worked during the week

About half of the farms in the FLS sample provided employment and earnings data

Farm Labor Sample Size and Response Rate - Regions and United States: October 7-13, 2018 and October 6-12, 2019
Regions Sample size Response rate
2018 2019 2018 2019
Northeast I 677 1,404 50.8% 46.5%
Northeast II 529 2,218 53.9% 47.7%
Appalachain I 600 1,378 56.2% 54.1%
Appalachain II 667 2,672 56.4% 56.9%
Southeast 584 1,434 45.9% 56.1%
Florida 452 1,043 43.6% 50.3%
Lake 766 1,855 52.0% 51.5%
Cornbelt II 802 3,673 55.6% 51.0%
Cornbelt II 697 2,542 44.8% 50.6%
Delta 689 2,740 69.7% 59.1%
Northern Plains 920 2,422 45.9% 43.3%
Southern Plains 951 3,592 59.7% 57.0%
Mountain I 378 1,687 45.5% 48.7%
Mountain II 322 1,356 46.6% 51.6%
Mountain III 292 1,212 51.0% 47.9%
Pacific 595 2,034 46.9% 41.3%
California 755 1,076 67.3% 56.5%
Hawaii 317 1,610 43.2% 47.8%
United States 10,993 35,948 53.0% 51.3%
Source: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Methodology_and_Data_Quality/Farm_Labor/11_2019/ALS%20QM%20Document_Nov2019.pdf

Lower coefficients of variation suggest more reliable data

Coefficient of Variation for All Hired Workers and Gross Wage Rate - Region and United States: October 7-13, 2018 and October 6-12, 2019
Regions All hired workers Gross wage rate
2018 2019 2018 2019
Northeast I 9.0% 4.6% 2.1% 1.6%
Northeast II 19.6% 7.7% 6.4% 2.4%
Appalachain I 12.3% 9.3% 3.0% 1.4%
Appalachain II 22.9% 12.4% 2.8% 2.4%
Southeast 13.6% 7.3% 2.9% 2.1%
Florida 24.2% 7.8% 4.5% 1.6%
Lake 10.8% 7.9% 2.6% 2.4%
Cornbelt II 13.6% 6.9% 2.4% 1.4%
Cornbelt II 17.5% 15.0% 4.7% 2.6%
Delta 10.1% 6.5% 3.5% 1.5%
Northern Plains 14.2% 10.8% 3.7% 2.5%
Southern Plains 11.5% 11.1% 3.7% 2.8%
Mountain I 16.0% 6.6% 3.5% 1.5%
Mountain II 18.5% 14.0% 3.3% 2.3%
Mountain III 13.1% 6.2% 3.9% 1.4%
Pacific 14.1% 10.0% 2.0% 1.4%
California 4.4% 4.3% 1.7% 1.1%
Hawaii 23.0% 9.2% 4.0% 3.4%
United States 3.3% 2.3% 90.0% 60.0%

 

Coefficient of Variation for Hired Workers and Gross Wage Rate by Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System - United States: October 7-13, 2018 and October 6-12, 2019
Title SOC code All hired workers Gross wage rate
2018 2019 2018 2019
Graders and sorters, agricultural products (45-2041) 12.1% 10.5% 2.2% 2.3%
Agricultural equipment operators (45-2091) 6.9% 4.1% 1.8% 0.8%
Farmworkers, crop, nursery, and greenhouse (45-2092) 5.4% 3.6% 1.1% 8.9%
Farmworkers, farm, ranch, and aquacultural animals (45-2093) 7.1% 5.4% 1.8% 1.4%
Agricultural workers, all other (45-2099) 13.0% 9.1% 3.4% 3.1%
Packers and packages, hand (53-7064) 16.0% 11.1% 2.8% 2.7%
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers (11-9013) 8.7% 5.5% 4.1% 2.0%
First-line supervisors of farming, fishiing workers (45-1011) 16.6% 7.3% 5.3% 2.6%
Source: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Methodology_and_Data_Quality/Farm_Labor/11_2019/ALS%20QM%20Document_Nov2019.pdf