OLYMPIA - Agricultural jobs in Washington are looking more attractive again as thousands of unemployed workers look for any opportunity to earn a paycheck.
Since the start of the recession, jobs in construction, manufacturing and other major industries have dropped significantly, pushing many unemployed workers into agricultural jobs that in better times were harder to fill.
Total agricultural employment - a combination of permanent and seasonal jobs - increased by 7.1 percent last year, an increase of 6,790 jobs over 2008. Seasonal jobs jumped up 19.4 percent last year.
"In a tough economy, people may give up a lot of discretionary purchases, but they still buy food. That keeps agriculture more stable than other industries," said Employment Security Department Commissioner Karen Lee.
The spike in agricultural jobs in 2009 can be attributed to several factors, including the cold economy and the unusually warm, dry weather in Washington last year, according to Employment Security's latest agricultural labor report.
As 2010 began, the mild weather conditions were ideal for pruning activities, which increased demand for orchard workers in January. Thousands of workers were needed to prune fruit trees to help maintain the size and quality of the fruit. Seasonal agricultural jobs in January 2010 were 47.4 percent higher than in January 2009, an increase of 7,110 jobs, according to the report.
The increase in employment from January 2009 to January 2010 was largely in the central regions of the state and driven primarily by apple work, which provided 3,240 more jobs this January. But several other fruit crops bolstered the numbers, including cherry trees, up 1,170 jobs; pear trees, up 1,150 jobs; and raspberry vines, up 600 jobs. Another 520 jobs were related to onion crops.
Wages for these workers also were up by about 7.2 percent ($8.79 to $9.42 per hour) from January 2009 to January 2010, according to the report, which is based on a survey of 1,800 agricultural growers in the state.
Unemployed workers interested in agricultural or other types of jobs can inquire about employment, assessment and training opportunities that are available through their local WorkSource career centers.
Employment Security is a partner in the statewide WorkSource system, which offers a variety of employment and training services, including free help with interviewing skills, résumés, and job referrals.
Locations of local WorkSource offices are listed online at (www.go2worksource.com). Assistance also is available by phone at 877-872-5627.
In addition, more than 19,000 job openings are posted on (www.go2worksource.com).