In the Long Run

Farm employment. Sharp increases in labor productivity—from rising efficiency due to the use of farm machinery, pesticides, fuel, and fertilizers as well as technological improvements in plant breeding and animal husbandry—are largely behind the dramatic decline in farm employment relative to total U.S. employment between 1948 and 1970. In contrast, during 1970 to 1995, when total employment grew faster in the U.S. than in any other major developed country, farm employment was relatively stable. Farm households have become increasingly dependent on off-farm income (keeping people in farming that would otherwise have left) and expanded use of hired farm labor (as the average age of farm operators increased). Changes in population estimates (with the 2000 Census) and accelerated emigration out of farming may account for the recent sharp drop in farm employment relative to total employment.