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April 2016, Volume 22, Number 2

CES: Farm Labor

California collects employment and earnings information each month from farm employers in a procedure analogous to the BLS Current Employment Statistics program (www.bls.gov/ces), which collects data from 144,000 establishments with 554,000 employees each month. CES-ag collects data from about 2,800 California farm employers.

The CES-ag survey form, revised in 2014, asks employers to report the number of non-supervisory production workers, their total hours worked, and their gross earnings for the week that includes the 12th of the month. Workers are divided between field and crop and livestock workers and, within each category, farm workers are distinguished from graders and sorters, equipment operators, etc. Farmers are asked how many of their workers will be employed for 149 days or less on their farms, and the gross value of their farm sales.

The data are collected monthly and reported at http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/LMID/Agricultural_Employment_in_California.html Data for January-March 2014 were posted in August 2014 and showed agricultural employment about 5,000 higher in 2014 than in 2013, for instance 345,000 in March 2014 compared to 340,000 in March 2013. Most of the increase was in support activities, which are mostly FLCs. Support employment of 107,000 was almost a third of total ag employment.

Ces-ag does not separate field and crop workers from livestock workers in reported data nor distinguish seasonal from other workers.

Average hourly earnings in March 2014 were over $14 an hour, up 5.5 percent from March 2013. Workers on grape farms had the highest average hourly earnings, over $15 an hour in March 2014, and workers employed by FLCs the lowest, $12.53. Earnings of workers hired directly by fruit and nut farms, $14.23, were higher than for workers hired directly by vegetable farms, $13.04. Earnings of dairy workers, $12.79, were lower than for all livestock workers, $13.94.

Ces-ag data are available for the state and six regions. Because of high variance, especially for the various regions and commodities, Ces-ag data may be best used to indicate trends. One reason for high average hourly earnings in Ces-ag is the presence of nonfarm workers on some farms such as accountants, drivers and others with higher wages than farm workers.

The USDA NASS's Farm Labor survey uses the same questionnaire to collect employment and earnings data, but NASS collects data from 1,000 California employers and reports data only for the state rather than sub-state areas while CEA-ag data are based on reports from 2,800 farms. Farm Labor reported 161,000 hired workers in April 2014, fewer than the 180,000 reported by Ces-ag for crop workers (152,500) and livestock workers (27,900) in March 2014. Farm Labor reported that over 85 percent of these workers were expected to be employed 150 or more days on the responding farm.

Farm Labor does not report agricultural service workers brought to farms by intermediaries, missing up to half of the workers on California crop farms.

Farm Labor reports lower average hourly earnings, $12.26 an hour for all hired workers in April 2014 and $10.95 for field workers; $11.70 for livestock workers; and $11.06 for field and livestock workers combined (all hired includes supervisors, bookkeepers and other workers).

Size. Most California employees are employed by a relatively few large employers. Almost 70 percent of the state's businesses have fewer than five employees, and they collectively employ eight percent of the state's workers. At the other extreme, about two percent of the state's businesses have 100 or more employees, and they collectively employ 45 percent of the state's employees.

During the third quarter of 2012, some 16,500 agricultural employers (NAICS 11) paid $3 billion in wages. Table 2A shows that half had fewer than five employees, and 135 had 500 or more employees. (www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/LMID/Size_of_Business_Data.html) These ag employers had 463,500 employees in the third quarter of 2012. Employers with fewer than five workers accounted for three percent of employment, while those with more than 500 workers accounted for 30 percent of employees (two-thirds of ag workers were employed in firms with 100 or more employees in the third quarter).

More crop production employees are concentrated in large employers than animal production employees. Four percent of crop employees were in firms with fewer than five workers in the third quarter of 2012, compared to eight percent of animal workers. A quarter of crop workers were in firms with more than 500 employees, but no animal workers, while 20 percent of crop workers were in firms with 100 to 499 employees, compared with 13 percent of animal workers.

Support workers were concentrated in larger firms: 30 percent were in firms with 500 or more employees, and 38 percent in firms with 100 to 499 employees.

In major farm counties, size-of-employer data is available only NAICS 11, agriculture. In Fresno county, 1,722 farm businesses had 59,700 employees during the third quarter of 2012. The 118 farming businesses with 100 or more employees were seven percent of employers, but they hired 70 percent of workers and paid two-thirds of wages. Raisin grapes, a major commodity in Kern county, are harvested in August-September.

In Kern county, 748 farm businesses had 69,800 employees during the third quarter of 2012. The 135 farming businesses with 100 or more employees were less than 20 percent of employers, but they hired over 85 percent of workers and paid 80 percent of wages. Table grapes, a major commodity in Kern county, are harvested in August-September.

In Tulare county, 1,169 farm businesses had 36,900 employees during the third quarter of 2012. The 59 farming businesses with 100 or more employees were less than five percent of employers, but they hired 35 percent of workers and paid 30 percent of wages. Navel oranges, which are a major crop in Tulare county, are harvested in winter.


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