There were 807,000 hired workers on the nation's farms and ranches during the week of Jan. 9-15, 2011, up 1 percent from a year ago. Of these hired workers, 602,000 were hired directly by farm operators. Agricultural service employees on farms and ranches made up the remaining 205,000 workers.

Farm operators paid their hired workers an average wage of $11.29 per hour during the January 2011 reference week, up 21 cents from a year earlier. Field workers received an average of $10.23 per hour, up 13 cents from last January, while livestock workers earned $10.52 per hour compared with $10.31 a year earlier. The field and livestock worker combined wage rate, at $10.35 per hour, was up 17 cents from last year. The number of hours worked averaged 38.9 for hired workers during the survey week, up 5 percent from a year ago.

The largest increases in the number of hired workers from last year occurred in the Northern Plains (Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota), Northeast I (New England and New York), and Mountain I (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) regions. Subzero conditions and heavy snow in the Northern Plains region led to increased supplemental feeding, and early calving was under way. Therefore, more livestock workers were needed.

Also, nursery and greenhouse operations required more workers to protect their crops against the bitter cold. In the Northeast I and Mountain I regions, the increase in hired workers was due to strong demand from the dairy industry.