Why no “Farm” in Nonfarm jobs?

Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

When economists at the Utah Department of Workforce Services talk about jobs, we typically refer to “nonfarm” or “nonagricultural” jobs. Do we have some sort of inborn economist-prejudice against agricultural jobs? Definitely not. Trust me, we love data of all sorts. We’d adore having counts of each and every piece of employment. However, the “jobs” data we collect and analyze is primarily a by-product of the administration of unemployment insurance laws. These laws require employers subject to Utah’s Employment Security Act to report wage/employment for the management of the unemployment insurance program. Typically, if a business employs workers, it is subject to the Act.

However, the law treats employers of agricultural workers(among others) differently. Not only are many farm jobs categorized as self-employed (also not covered by the Act), but a smaller share of hired agricultural workers are subject to unemployment insurance laws than workers in other industries. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) groups agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting together. Only forestry and logging jobs get counted in the “nonfarm” job totals.