Survey: West Slope employers expect smaller wage increases

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Western Colorado employers expect to increase wages proportionally less than employers in other areas of the state, according to the latest results of an annual compensation survey.

West Slope employers responding to a survey conducted by the Mountain States Employers Council projected an average pay increase of 2.4 percent for 2018. That matches the expected wage hike for 2017 as well as the actual increase for 2016.

The projected statewide pay increase for 2018 was higher at 3 percent. Projected wage hikes ranged from 3.2 percent in resort areas and Northern Colorado to 3.1 percent in the Denver and Boulder areas to 3 percent in Southern Colorado.

Sue Wolf, director of surveys for the Mountain States Employers Council, said differences in pay between the West Slope and other regions reflect a number of factors.

The Western Colorado economy has lagged behind other areas of the state in rebounding from the recession, Wolf said. A downturn in natural gas development also has affected the region.

Projected pay increases are also a function in part of labor demand and supply. Unemployment rates have remained higher in Western Colorado than other areas with lower jobless rates and tight labor markets, she said.

Pay tends to remain higher in resort areas because of the higher cost of living there, she added.

With offices in Arizona, Colorado and Utah, the  Mountain States Employers Council offers a variety of services to its 3,750 employer members. The organization has conducted an annual compensation survey for 70 years to enable members to compare the wages they pay with the marketplace.

Out of 491 participants in the latest survey, 43 were from Western Colorado — nearly 9 percent of the total.

The government, services and health care sectors accounted for 48 percent of survey participants. In terms of staffing size, employers with less than 50 employees accounted for 25 percent of participants, followed by firms with 100 to 249 employees at 24 percent and firms with 50 to 99 employees at 16 percent.

“Pay is trending higher than previous years due to tighter labor markets,” Wolf said.

Skilled trade and production workers were deemed the most challenging employees to recruit, followed by professionals in technical positions involving engineering, computers and science.

In addition to increasing starting wages, employers have devoted more attention to retaining staff and offering more training and development opportunities, Wolf said.

A portion of the latest survey focused on information technology jobs, with 6 percent of participants from Western Colorado.

West Slope employers expect to raise pay for information technology employees proportionally less than employers in other areas of the state.

West Slope employers projected an average pay increase of 2.3 percent for 2018 for IT employees. That’s slightly higher than the 2.2 percent hike expected for 2017, but lower than the 2.7 percent increase in 2016.

The projected statewide pay increase for IT employees for 2018 was 2.9 percent. Projected wage hikes ranged from 3.2 percent in Northern Colorado to 3 percent in the Denver and Boulder areas to 2.8 percent in resort areas and 2.5 percent in Southern Colorado.