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Washington agricultural employment rising


By DAN WHEAT



Capital Press



Washington's total agricultural employment was up 11.4 percent in June from June of 2012 and seasonal ag employment up 1.5 percent, according to a state report.



Seasonal ag was up 3.5 percent May-to-May. The main reason is fruit maturity being about 10 days ahead of last year, said Kirk Mayer, manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association in Wenatchee.



It's possible for growers to be short of what they need in workers while agricultural employment increases because of upward trends in acreage of tree fruit in production, Mayer has said.



The June increase in total work was most in South Central Washington, up 5,380 jobs and the least in far eastern counties, up 150 jobs, according to the June Agriculture Labor Employment and Wages report of the state Department of Employment Security.



Of seasonal employment, cherry work was up 2,490 workers, other tree fruit 650, hops 410, potatoes 280, grapes 30 and bulb work 20.



But declines were reported: apple work down 520, pears 410, nursery 290, blueberries 210, miscellaneous vegetables 130, wheat and grain 80 and other 40.



The report shows seasonal employment June-to-June by region: up 15.7 percent in Western Washington due to increases for several crops; up 9.5 percent in South Central Washington due to increased cherry work; down 10.9 percent in North Central Washington and 10.7 in Grant and Adams counties because of less apple work; up 7.1 percent in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties because of increased apple work; and down 40 percent in far eastern counties, attributed to less seasonal work.



The average inflation-adjusted seasonal wage rate was up 4.6 percent from two years earlier.



Employment Security preliminary numbers show the state's on-farm, tree fruit wages totaled $789 million in 2012, up from $667 million in 2011 and $629 million in 2010, Mayer said. Those wages do not include packing, shipping, marketing and promotions, he said.



The state's seasonal agricultural employment was estimated at 66,930 in June, up from 65,940 in June 2012, according to the report. Total agricultural employment was estimated at 120,190 versus 107,870 a year earlier.



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