Beginning in 2012, two quarters of farm labor data are published semi-annually. Additionally, the agricultural service component was discontinued in 2012. Hired worker estimates exclude agricultural service employees.

There were 575,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on the nation's farms and ranches during the week of January 8-14, 2012, down nearly 5% from a year ago. Workers hired directly by farm operators numbered 748,000 for the following quarter's reference week of April 8-14, 2012. Because NASS did not publish estimates for the April 2011 quarter, no previous year comparison is available for April.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $11.52/hour during the January 2012 reference week, up nearly 2% from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $10.39/hour, up more than 1%, while livestock workers earned $10.96/hour compared with $10.52 a year ago. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $10.58/hour, was up 21¢ from last year. The number of hours worked averaged 39.6 for hired workers during the reference week, up fractionally from a year ago.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $11.41/hour during the April 2012 reference week, down 11¢ from the January quarter. Field workers received an average of $10.50/hour, up 11¢ from January. Livestock workers earned $10.95, down just 1¢ from January. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $10.62/hour, was up 4¢ from January. The number of hours worked averaged 39.2 for hired workers during the April reference week.

For the January reference week, the largest percentage increases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Corn Belt I (Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) region and in Florida. The increase in Corn Belt I was largely driven by strong demand for livestock workers resulting from increased cattle and hog inventories. The increase in Florida was largely driven by strong demand from fruit and vegetable producers during recovery from a prior week freeze event.

For the January reference week, the largest percentage decreases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Delta (Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi) Northern Plains (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), and Northeast I (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire) regions. The decrease in the Delta region resulted primarily from softening demand for cotton workers, ahead of a substantial decrease in cotton acreage. In the Northern Plains and Northeast I regions, record mild January temperatures reduced the need for livestock overwintering activities and associated labor requirements.

For the January reference week, hired worker wage rates were above a year ago in the majority of regions. The largest increases occurred in Hawaii, Florida and the Lake (Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) regions. The increase in Hawaii was mainly driven by a higher proportion of supervisory and specialty labor combined with wage increases for all worker groups. The higher wages in Florida resulted from the increased demand from fruit and vegetable producers. In the Lake region, generally higher wages followed a drop in overall hired workers.