The Green Industry Jobs Gap

Contractors looking to hire, but where's the help?

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The landscaping industry employs more than 829,000 people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to a survey of Green Industry PRO subscribers conducted this past summer, the industry would employ even more if it could find willing and able bodies.

More than half of landscape contractors who responded to the survey said they plan to hire additional field workers and crew leaders over the next two years. Another third said it's a possibility. However, 42% said it's more difficult to find and retain field workers than in the past, while 59% said the same thing about crew leaders.

Contractors are having trouble filling other posts as well. Roughly one-third said it's harder to find good administrative help, 40% said it's harder to find designers, and 46% said it's harder to find capable managers. Fortunately, only one in four contractors anticipates having to hire in these areas.

Where are the workers?

According to the survey, half of landscape contractors employ Hispanic workers. In fact, nearly 25% said the majority of their workforce is Hispanic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 40% of those employed in the industry are Hispanic.

However, only 4% have utilized the H-2B guest worker visa program. For those 4%, the U.S. Labor Department's (DOL) recent H-2B wage rule revisions, which are expected to dramatically drive up labor costs for those using the H-2B program, are causing a great deal of angst and uncertainty.

The DOL's H-2B wage rule changes were largely driven by a fear that U.S. workers were adversely affected by the employment of H-2B seasonal guest workers. By forcing employers to pay higher wages to these H-2B workers, the DOL hopes that employers will simply hire U.S. workers to fill those job openings. That's a lot easier said than done.

According to the survey, landscape contractors cite a variety of reasons for having a difficult time in recruiting American workers:

  • 24% American workers are too lazy
  • 23% Can't offer year-round employment
  • 22% Can't pay employees enough
  • 17% Can't offer employees good enough benefits
  • 12% American workers aren't aware of opportunities in the Green Industry

When asked how much they pay their employees, contractors responded this way:

Field workers

  • 46% up to $10/hour
  • 50% $10-15/hour
  • 4% $15-20/hour

Crew leaders

  • 2% up to $10/hour
  • 61% $10-15/hour
  • 30% $15-20/hour
  • 7% more than $20/hour


  • 9% up to $10/hour
  • 34% $10-15/hour
  • 40% $15-20/hour
  • 17% more than $20/hour


  • 27% $10-15/hour
  • 42% $15-20/hour
  • 31% more than $20/hour


  • 9% $10-15/hour
  • 56% $15-20/hour
  • 35% more than $20/hour

When asked about which benefits they offer employees, contractors responded this way:

  • 58%  Paid days off (vacation, sick time, etc.)
  • 56%  Bonuses, commissions and other incentives for crews
  • 38%  Bonuses, commissions and other incentives for managers
  • 38%  Health insurance
  • 14%  Profit sharing
  • 14%  Retirement plan