May 9, 2022

Agricultural Job Market & the Purdue Ag Jobs Dashboard

Wondering what the current agriculture job market is?

In this episode Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture’s ag economists Brady Brewer and Nathan Delay discuss the agricultural job market and the Purdue University Department of Agriculture Economics Ag Jobs Dashboard from research conducted by grad student Doug Abney.

The dashboard is an overview of monthly data collected of the agricultural job market over time, starting the summer of 2021.  Slides and a transcript from the discussion can be found below.

Related Resources

Ag Jobs Dashboard, Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics


Audio Transcript

Intro [Recording date: May 6, 2022]

Brady Brewer: Welcome to Purdue Commercial AgCast, the Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture’s podcast featuring farm management news and information. I am your host, Brady Brewer, and joining me today is my colleagues, Nate Delay, who’s an assistant professor of agricultural economics here at Purdue. On today’s podcast, we’re going to discuss the agricultural job market and what we have learned with a research project that Nate and I have done that has been undertaken by one of our graduate students, Douglas Abney.

So, Nate, with that, do you want to tell the listeners a little bit about this research project?


Nathan Delay: Sure. This is a project that came out of work that Doug started as an undergrad actually in an undergraduate research course, and he was interested in understanding the agricultural job sort of landscape and some of the skills that employers were looking for within agriculture. So that’s what got him interested in it. And so, when he converted to the master’s program here at Purdue, we started advising him in this project. He’s got a program that scrapes job posting websites for jobs that mention agriculture. He does a monthly scrape. And then with that data, we analyze the text of the job description to categorize the type of job, the salary that the job pays, any skills and education required by the job. All of this is to understand both the job market overall and as well as changes in the agricultural job space over time. So that’s what we’ve been doing.


Brady Brewer: I would say jobs in general in the general economy. Right. We’ve heard the terms like the great resignation, the unemployment numbers that are low right now in the general U.S. economy. So, part of this is we wanted to learn about the agriculture job market because there’s not a whole lot of information out there.

So, one of the first things that we look at when we look at these jobs is the location of where they’re posted. We divide the United States into four different regions. The southern part of the U.S. has the most job openings. You know, the most recent data that we have was scraped in April of 2022 with around 1400 job postings in the southern U.S., followed by the Midwest region, then West and Northeast. And finally, there’s about 120 jobs that are fully remote that we have scraped. In total, if we think about this being a snapshot of the ag market, we do want to just be fairly transparent here and say that we realize that the jobs that we post only represent a smaller snapshot of the complete ag job market so when we search for these jobs, we’re searching for jobs that specifically have the word agriculture in them. But we also realize that there’s a whole subset of the agricultural supply chain that we may be missing out on. If you think about like food retail or food processing, we wanted to keep our job market analysis closer to the farm. So, we’re looking at agriculture.


Nathan Delay: Right. And that’s a kind of a two part selection thing. There’s jobs within agriculture that would make a posting on a website like LinkedIn. And also the position has to mention some sort of agriculture related task or skill or need. Right. So, like you said, there’s going to be a part of this broader agricultural job space that we’re specifically not including.


Brady Brewer: Yeah. We release a monthly report and a dashboard publicly on the Purdue Ag Econ’s website, and we have gotten inquiries as we have done this this semester. One of the inquiries we got was about CDLs. So, job postings that mentioned a commercial driver’s license with trucking. Since that was a major issue on, you know, the logistics in the economy earlier this year, we are able to track CDL, but we are probably missing out on, you know, trucking jobs because obviously if you’re a trucker, you may not be specifically hauling agricultural commodity. So those job postings may not have the term agriculture in those job postings.

In total, our particular data set shows that about there’s, you know, 1400 new postings each month with around 4000 outstanding ag jobs on the websites that we are scraping.


Nathan Delay: Yeah so after we collect this data, Doug has code that basically categorizes each job posting into one of a list of different categories. The biggest ones include Business Administration, that’s about 22% of these job openings, followed by nondescript titles, about 14% of jobs. So, these are positions that we couldn’t fit into one of these buckets cleanly. So, we just kind of consider this and other category but engineering jobs at about 11% and then sales jobs at 8%. Those top four represent the biggest categories that we look at. Some other notable categories include lending and finance, agronomy, and just general farming.


Brady Brewer: Yeah. And there’s a whole host of skills that are mentioned. Nate mentioned earlier that we do a text analysis of the job descriptions that we scrape from online. So, one of the things we look at is what is being mentioned in these job descriptions. What are employers in the agricultural supply chain looking for within their potential job candidates? So, the first one is farming, is mentioned around 65% of the time.  Now, this doesn’t mean that 65% of the jobs are looking for on farm labor, but it is saying that, you know, these employers are looking for people familiar with farming. You know, this could be that they’re looking for people to interact with farms at the farm gate or manage farm product in some capacity. The next most mentioned item in the job descriptions is familiarity, you know, natural resources followed by sales.

So around 55% of the job postings mentioning sales in some capacity. And then the next is agronomy or agronomic description at 46%. And there’s obviously a lot of overlap with these mentions in these descriptions. Right. You could have a agronomy position that also mentioned sales. So this is this is you know, if looking out broadly speaking what these ag jobs are looking for in their potential candidate you know, for me, the one that stuck out for me was the farming obviously the 65%.

I mean obviously if you’re a chemical company or some company that’s serving farmers in some capacity being familiar with farming practices. It makes sense that 65% of the job openings mentioned you know, farm experience or farming in some capacity and then also the sales category right you know even the in some of the engineering jobs mentioned sales.


Nathan Delay: And that sort of warms our hearts as Purdue ag econ people because we have a big sales program, right? We put out a lot of sales people from this department. So good to see that. The other thing that jumps out to me is that high percentage of descriptions mentioning farming at 65%. And that underscores the nature of the kind of data that we’re collecting because like we said earlier, we are really focused on job postings that are related to at or near farm gate ag production so again, downstream of that food processing, this is kind of highlighting that we’re not capturing a lot of that stuff. So it gives us a good indication that the types of jobs that we’re looking for are showing up. Also, economics came in at 29%. So again, as Purdue Ag Econ people, we like to see that, right we want to see employers looking for those kinds of skills. But yeah, generally we see that the breakdown of these kind of skills that are mentioned within job descriptions are consistent with what we would expect for the kind of data that we’re looking at.


Brady Brewer: The next broad bucket that we look at is we do collect salary information. Obviously not all job postings mention salary range. Some will say, you know, commensurate with skills and qualifications, some don’t even mention salary. They wait for the applicants to come in and then they discuss that at a later date. But there is a fair amount that do mention salary and some of the job postings, they mention a range so we’re taking the average of those range and some mentioned hourly for the hourly jobs. They mentioned an hourly rate. So, for those jobs, we convert that hourly rate to a yearly gross income. The national average salary for the ag jobs that we collect was right around $56,000. You know, I think the good news here for agriculture is that when you compare that this was actually higher than when you looked at some of the national data sets we compared to, Zip Recruiter publishes an average salary for the jobs that are posted on their website.

It was right at $56,000, very in line with the jobs that we are pulling and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics which is the federal government’s arm that you know really looks at and analyzes this you know they have the national average salary right around $52,000. You know so obviously this includes a lot of a lot of type of jobs that we don’t scrape service workers stuff like that that may you know aid that salary being a little bit lower than the one we’re looking at. But I think for the employers out there this is a good sign that agriculture is being competitive with the rest of the general economy when it comes to salaries.


Nathan Delay: Right and specifically, postings that are on online job pages, online job posting websites. We see a lot of consistency there. As you mentioned, not all of these jobs report the salary. I think we’re at about 11% of these postings that will show the salary in the job description. So there is that component that those that don’t mention the salary could be different than the typical one that is showing it. So, there’s some selection issue going on there, too.


Brady Brewer: Then we also break down the salary by regions and we also break it down by job categories title, which we’ll get to here in a second. When you look at it by region, the Midwest region does have the highest average salary posted in our data right at almost $60,000, followed by the West, then the South and the Northeast, and then the remote is right behind the west at around $57,000-$58,000.

We also break it down by, as I said, by job category title. So, the top average salary is those that mentioned sales at $82,000. And I should note that this is the salary that’s posted. I fully realize that some of these salaries that we’re mentioning, the total compensation may actually be higher once you calculate in benefits, you know, I know for the remote work maybe there could be compensation for internet or rent or something like that if you have a home office. We’re only going by the salary that’s posted explicitly in the job posting, but sales is right around $82,000. This is followed by academic job postings. Nate, you and I are included in here as university faculty members, or it doesn’t, I guess those don’t have to be faculty members. Those could also just be people that work for university extension personnel.


Nathan Delay: Sure. County extension educators, anybody affiliated with the kind of land grant system.


Brady Brewer: Yeah. So academic was next. Lending and finance was third, business administration, and then engineering is kind of the top five. Engineering was right at $67,000 – $68,000.


Nathan Delay: The other thing that we’ve been tracking is the length of time that a job posting will remain up after it’s been posted. The majority, about two thirds of these postings will be filled within the month. 63% of jobs get filled within one month of being posted. And then there’s a really long tail after that. But we do see that 89% of jobs are filled within the first three months.

So, there’s really only 11% of jobs that go much beyond that. And it’s hard to know without digging in what types of those jobs those are, if they’re are more high level management positions that are, you know, typically not filled for a while because there’s an extensive interview process versus seasonal jobs that get filled very quickly. But this is encouraging from a from an ag sort of job market standpoint because it indicates that employers are by and large finding the people that they need within a reasonable amount of time.


Brady Brewer: Yeah, it’s both a good sign from a job market perspective. That employers are finding people. And, you know, from our perspective as a university, it’s also good that our graduates are getting hired within a reasonable amount of time as well. We don’t break this down by level of education or anything. You know, I know a lot of universities report statistics and their brochures to potential incoming students of, you know, 99 or 98% of their students get a job within six months of graduating. And this definitely supports that type of data that shows that if you’re looking for a job in agriculture you know this has 90% of the job postings get filled within, within three months. So that pretty healthy sign for the job market.


Nathan Delay: That’s right


Brady Brewer: Another thing we mention or track is remote work and I do want to take a little bit of time here to say you know this is, we release a monthly report and we try to do something that’s in the news every month that we can track in the job market. And this was one that we got started when we first started this back in January, actually, just because of the pandemic that’s happening or was happening, I don’t know if it I guess we may be on the other side of the pandemic, but we saw a prevalence of remote work that happened because of people working from home. So we started tracking job postings that mentioned remote work, hybrid work, or some type of flexibility explicitly in the job posting. What we found was that around 14% of all the job postings explicitly mention this type of remote or flexible work schedule in the job postings.


Nathan Delay: That’s right. And this is one that we will be watching with a lot of interest because, you know, there’s a lot of conversations happening about what is the future of work look like and will companies and employers go back to a fully in person work experience. So within agriculture, we’re interested to know if that will, how that’s going to unfold there as well. So far, at least based on the latest month’s data, there hasn’t been a steep drop off in the percentage of jobs offering a remote work option or a fully remote option.


Brady Brewer: Yeah, I, Nate I will fully say, if you would have asked me six months ago what this chart would look like, I would have said we would see a drop off in the amount that people or companies would be mentioning explicitly remote work in these job descriptions. I thought that as the economy opened back up, we went back to what I would call more of a normal day to day schedule in our lives, you know, less restrictions on moving about that you would see companies move back towards the office and at least for now, our data does not show any slow up in mentioning this type of remote work in the job postings.


Nathan Delay: That’s right.


Brady Brewer: Nate for me, one of the big conclusions is that the salaries are comparable to the national economy. So, if you’re looking in agriculture, this does not mean that you will be getting paid less, you know, than if you were to go work in sectors outside of agriculture. I think another big takeaway here is remote work that 14% doesn’t, as I just said, doesn’t seem to be slowing up at all. Did you have any other large takeaways from, you know, from this project so far?


Nathan Delay: No. I think looking ahead, we’re excited to see where Doug takes this research because he’s going to be using it for his master’s thesis. And he’s just done an excellent job of compiling this data. So we’re excited to see where we go with this. One of the questions that Doug is looking into is the digital needs of employers. What kind of data skills are employers looking for in their potential hires? And based on descriptions, Doug can analyze that and see what sort of data analytics or digital agriculture skills employers are looking for and track that over time. So, we’re excited to see where that goes.


Brady Brewer: And then we’re also, if you’re an employer or a farmer or someone who’s on the ag job market and you want to find out more about the ag job market, where can they go to find more about this data?


Nathan Delay: Right. This is all of this data is available on our Ag Jobs Dashboard, which is hosted on the Purdue website. If you just Google Purdue Ag Jobs Dashboard, you’ll find it pretty quickly. The link will also be included in the description of this podcast. But there you’re going to find an overview of this data a map showing where the jobs are and how much they’re being paid. We also include with that a monthly report. So, updating that dashboard every month with fresh data and some analysis on what’s going on. All of that can be found at the Purdue Ag Jobs Dashboard.


Brady Brewer: Yeah, and that dashboard is interactive. So, if you’re someone from another state or here in Indiana, you can actually drill in and we mainly reported national statistics to you here on this podcast. But if you want to see what is the salary specifically for the state I live in or the education requirements or some of the description analysis, you can dig into that in that dashboard.


Brady Brewer: So, with that, we thank you for listening to the Purdue Commercial AgCast. For more information about Farm Management News, please go to the Center for Commercial Agriculture’s website. Visit the Purdue Ag Jobs Dashboard to learn more about the Ag Job Market.




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