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California Agricultural Employment in 2020

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July 10, 2020

Employment in California fell in spring 2020 compared with spring 2019. Employment in May 2020 was 15.5 million, down 16 percent from 18.5 million in May 2019. After beginning the year higher than in 2019, California’s agricultural employment fell 20 percent in April-May 2020 compared to year-earlier levels.

Agricultural employment fell 20 percent in April-May 2020 compared to 2019

Employment in major agricultural counties fell sharply in April-May 2020 compared to year-earlier levels. Fresno county’s agricultural employment was 48,100 in May 2020, down six percent from 51,100 in May 2019, Kern county’s agricultural employment was 44,000, down 30 percent from 62,500 in May 2019, and Monterey county’s agricultural employment was 41,300, down 36 percent from 64,800 in May 2019.

Agricultural employment in Monterey was 36 percent lower in May 2020

DOL certified 23,321 jobs in California to be filled by H-2A workers in FY19. The H-2A program in California follows two rules of two thirds: • Two thirds of H-2A jobs were in six counties, led by Monterey with over a quarter and Santa Barbara with 10 percent of jobs certified • Over two-thirds of H-2A jobs were with farm labor contractors, including a third with the California’s largest H-2A employer, Fresh Harvest

Two-thirds of H-2A Jobs Certified in California in FY19 were in 6 Counties

Two-thirds of H-2A Jobs Certified in California in FY19 were in 6 Counties
Total Fixed Situs FLC FLC Share
Monterey 6,463 403 6,060 94%
Santa Barbara 2,436 1,033 1,403 58%
Imperial 1,790 771 979 55%
Ventura 1,767 40 1,727 98%
San Luis Obispo 1,593 771 822 52%
Fresno 1,315 424 891 68%
Top 6 counties 15,364 3,442 11,882  
Top 6 share 66% 51% 71%  
California 3,321 6,688 16,633 71%
Source: EDD Foreign Labor Certification Unit

During the first six months of FY20, the same six counties accounted for two-thirds of H-2A jobs certified. As in FY19, FLCs accounted for 90 percent of the jobs certified in Monterey county, and less than half in Imperial county. Job certification data emphasize that most H-2A workers are in coastal counties with high-value commodities and high housing costs and near the border, where frequent Border Patrol checks require employers to hire legal workers.

H-2A Jobs Certified in FY20 (October 2019-March 2020)

H-2A Jobs Certified in FY20 (October 2019-March 2020)
  Total Fixed Situs FLC FLC Share
Monterey 3,939 469 3,474 88%
Santa Barbara 686 204 482 70%
Imperial 1,025 757 369 36%
Ventura 1,767 57 968 55%
San Luis Obispo 1,023 278 743 73%
Fresno 143 37 100 70%
Top 6 8,583 1,802 6,136  
Top 6 share 67% 55% 66%  
California 12,822 3,254 9,323 73%
Source: EDD Foreign Labor Certification Unit

Monterey county had ¼ of California’s H-2A Jobs

H-2A Jobs Certified in FY20 (October 2019-March 2020)
  Total Fixed Situs FLC FLC Share
Monterey 3,939 469 3,474 88%
Santa Barbara 686 204 482 70%
Imperial 1,025 757 369 36%
Ventura 1,767 57 968 55%
San Luis Obispo 1,023 278 743 73%
Fresno 143 37 100 70%
Top 6 8,583 1,802 6,136  
Top 6 share 67% 55% 66%  
California 12,822 3,254 9,323 73%
Source: EDD Foreign Labor Certification Unit

Monterey county had 1/4 of California’s H-2A Jobs