Survey: W. Slope pay raises could lead state in ‘13

Employees on the Western Slope could see larger pay raises next year than any other part of the state, according to a recent survey by the Mountain States Employers Council.

In a survey of 500 Colorado businesses, the Denver-based nonprofit council found that employers are expecting businesses to begin hiring next year, and plan to increase their pay as a way of retaining workers, said Patty Goodwin, who oversees the council’s annual Colorado compensation survey.

That’s partly because far fewer employers on this side of the Continental Divide expect to impose pay freezes next year as they have since the recession began, Goodwin said.

“The Western Slope area, their overall pay increases were consistent with the rest of the state,” she said. “But when we took all of those who had wage freezes, their numbers just jumped. They’ve got the highest overall average pay increases.”

Statewide, the survey found that employers plan to increase wages by an average of 2.5 percent next year. That compares to a 2.1 percent average in 2010, the survey showed.

In fact, only about 2 percent of the businesses surveyed statewide said they planned to implement a pay freeze in 2013. That’s way down from a high of 39 percent in 2010, Goodwin said.

That trend more than any other indicated employers have a very optimistic view of where the state and nation’s economies are headed, she said.

“That’s a huge drop,” Goodwin said. “We’ve gone through a tough period where a lot of organizations have had wage freezes. Year after year, employers cannot continue to have wage freezes. When you’re not adding on to the employees wage because when the (job) market does open up, those are going to be the first employees who are going to leave.”

In addition to the expected wage increases, and as a further indicator businesses are more confident the job market soon will return, they are beginning to increase their training budgets.

Goodwin said one of the first things businesses cut in their budgets during bad times is training.

“We’ve seen a 24 percent increase in our training programs,” Goodwin said.

One of the services the council offers its members is employee training — everything from simple clerical skills to advanced supervisory training.

Other highlights of the survey include:

■ The oil and gas and retail/wholesale jobs expect to increase pay next year by as much as 4.2 percent.

■ About 94 percent of all the jobs surveyed included at least one employee getting bonuses.

■ Entry-level salaries are expected to be about 8 percent higher in 2013 over this year.

■ Public sector and construction jobs are expected to see the lowest pay raises next year, at an average of 1.9 percent for government employees and 2.3 percent for construction workers.

“Those pay increases are keeping up with the consumer price index,” she said. “That’s what we typically find. Pay increases stay ahead of inflation, and so we’re still seeing that.”


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