Survey: West Slope employers to increase pay 2.5 percent in 2020

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Phil Castle

Western Slope employers expect to increase wages 2.5 percent in 2020, according to the latest results of an annual compensation survey.

The projected pay increase comes in at slightly less than what’s expected for 2019 as well as the wage increase paid in 2018, the Employers Council reported.

The projected pay increase in Western Colorado for 2020 also comes in lower than all but one region of Colorado as well as the statewide average.

Sue Wolf, surveys director for the organization, attributed the results in part to the effects of a downturn in the energy sector.

But lower projected wage increases across the state seem to contradict a tighter labor market as well as other survey results that indicate employers are paying more to keep some positions filled, Wolf said.

The Employers Council offers a variety of services to a total of more than 4,000 employer members in Colorado as well as Arizona, Utah and Wyoming, The organization has conducted annual compensation surveys for 70 years to enable members to compare the wages they pay with the marketplace.

A total of 426 employers in Colorado responded to the 2019 survey, 39 of them on the Western Slope. Another 37 employers were from resort areas, including those in Western Colorado.

Western Slope employers projected a pay increase of 2.5 percent for 2020, less than the 2.7 percent increase expected for 2019. Employers reported increasing pay 2.6 percent in 2018.

Over the past 14 years, pay increases in Western Colorado have ranged from 4.5 percent in 2007 to 1.6 percent in 2010.

Employers in resort areas projected a pay increase of 3.5 percent for 2020, matching that for 2019 and exceeding the 3.1 percent wage hike in 2018.

Elsewhere in Colorado, projected pay increases for 2020 ranged from 3.1 percent in the Denver and Boulder area and northern Colorado to 2.5 percent in Pueblo. The statewide average was 3 percent.

Broken down by industry, projected pay increases for 2020 among Western Slope employers ranged from 2.8 percent in the health care sector to 2.2 percent in the government sector to 1.7 percent in the nonprofit sector.

Statewide, projected pay increases for 2020 ranged from 2.3 percent for the nonprofit sector to 4.3 percent for the financial and real estate sector.

Projected average hourly wages for 2020 for entry level new hires by Western Slope employers ranged from $15.83 for maintenance jobs and $16.14 for office and clerical jobs to $16.20 for manufacturing jobs and $16.71 for material handling positions.

Statewide, employers reported it was most challenging in 2018 to recruit and retain skilled trade and production workers as well as engineers, scientists and other technical professionals.

Employers also reported increasing average pay 6.7 percent in 2019 for employees in “critical to recruit” positions compared to those in “average or typical” positions. For 2018, 43 percent of Colorado employers responding to the compensation survey reported increasing starting wages to overcome recruitment or retention challenges.

Still, the turnover rate for Colorado employees dropped from 2017 to 2018 in most areas of the state. That rate includes employees who choose to leave their positions as well as those who are let go, Wolf said.

Western Slope employers reported a 13.9 percent turnover rate in 2018, down from 22.3 percent in 2017 and 19.3 percent in 2016. Wolf said it would be difficult to explain the decrease given all the variables involved.

Statewide, the turnover rate fell nearly a point to 19.9 percent in 2018.