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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ratio of farmworkers to farm jobs in California increased to 2.3 in 2016


California Employment Development Department data suggest that almost 5% of California's workers were employed in agriculture, in 2016. In that year, monthly average employment in agriculture was 425,400, but the number of workers with at least one job in agriculture was 2.3 times that figure, 989,500. The number of hired farmworkers, including supervisors and office personnel, rose almost 20% between 2015 and 2016. Most workers employed in agriculture do not work year-round, so there is a gap between the average earnings of a full-time equivalent job in agriculture ($32,316 in 2016) and the average earnings of actual agricultural workers ($19,800 in 2016). This gap was widest for the third of all farmworkers employed by farm labor contractors (FLCs). Over half of the workers whose maximum earnings were in agriculture had only one farm job. Almost 20% of farmworkers received unemployment insurance benefits in 2016, including half of those whose maximum earnings were in logging and cotton ginning. Public policy has long favored a farm labor market in which most workers are employed year-round; these data indicate that the farm labor market in California is, on average, heading in the opposite direction.

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