Job vacancies rising, but give me a tin cup

Filed under: Opinion |

The Denver Business Journal reported last week that, according to a survey by the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District and the Denver Office of Economic Development, residents of the Mile High City give panhandlers about $4.6 million a year.

I’m not aware of any similar studies conducted here in the Springs, but based on U.S. Census figures for population and a few simple mathematical calculations (since I have a bachelor’s of arts degree and complex mathematic formulas scare the bejesus out of me), I extrapolated that using the Denver figures as a guide, panhandlers pocket about $3 million annually in Colorado Springs.

The exact figure I came up with was $2,995,387. If you divide that by the 1,920 homeless people in the Springs, as identified by BBC Research of Denver for the Colorado Springs Community Services Department as part of a 2000 study, that equates to $1,560.10 per person.

Of course, it would be presumptive of me to assume that all homeless people are panhandlers or that all panhandlers are homeless, but without some type of numbers to work with, it’s tough to extrapolate.

Now $1,560.10 doesn’t go very far as an annual income, but since I’m on this math kick, it would buy 196.2 of the $7.95 half-pound cheeseburgers on the lunch menu at The Famous (that figure of course doesn’t include sales tax or gratuity).

But say you really wanted to make the money stretch. You could get 626.5 of the $2.49 six-inch sandwich specials at Subway (not including tax, but you don’t have to factor in a tip).

But maybe you’ve got that $1,560.10 burning a hole in your pocket and you’re really not all that hungry. Swing by Starbucks and you could get 577.8 tall Iced Caffe Mochas.

Or perhaps a chilly bowl of ice cream is just what the doctor ordered on a warm Colorado Springs afternoon. You could get 284.17 pints of any of the original ice creams at Cold Stone Creamery.

But maybe we should stop nickel and diming the panhandling proceeds and take a look at the bigger picture.

Let’s go back to the original figure of $4.6 million in Denver. I’m not sure how much perspective this provides, but $4.6 million is about 1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product of The Gambia.

And just in case you’re drawing a blank, The Gambia is a country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa that was once part of the Mali Empire. (And since confession is good for the soul, I had to look it up online myself.) And just in case you’re wondering, the population is about 1.54 million or about three times that of Denver.

More job vacancies in region

According to the most recent Job Vacancy Survey report issued by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, there are an estimated 2,915 jobs open for immediate hire in the Pikes Peak region.

A year ago the number stood at 2,448.

The latest findings are the result of a survey conducted in El Paso and Teller counties between Feb. 15 and March 1.

The regional unemployment rate, according to the DOL, dropped from 6 percent a year ago to 5.6 percent during this reporting period.

“The increase in vacancies along with the increase in job growth and the drop in the region’s unemployment rate confirms the on-going economic recovery in the Colorado labor market,” says Rick Grice, executive director of the department. “Our latest Job Vacancy Survey shows leisure and hospitality offering the highest number of jobs with 1,015 estimated vacancies paying an average wage of $7 per hour.”

The sales and related occupational group accounts for 13 percent of all vacancies in the survey. Office and administrative support make up 12 percent of the vacancies. Top vacancies include cashiers ($8.30) and customer service representatives ($9.50). Waiters and waitresses ($6.10) and retail sales came in third and fourth with 3 percent of all vacancies.

A total of 1,953 employers representing 41 percent of the region’s employment responded to the survey. Of those, 61 are large employers (250 or more employees), 123 are government employers and 1,769 are small to mid-size employers (five to 249 employees). The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3 percent.

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Twelve percent of the employers responding reported having at least one vacancy. Seven percent reported having more than one vacancy.
  • The average wage for all vacancies is $13.30 per hour. The health care and social assistance sector offers the highest average wage of $20.70 per hour, followed by wages in the information sector ($20.50 per hour).
  • Seventy percent of vacancies are in small to mid-size firms, 25 percent are in large firms and only 5 percent are in government agencies.
  • Eighty-one percent of estimated vacancies are full-time permanent positions and 14 percent are part-time permanent.
  • Fifty seven percent of vacancies are considered not difficult to fill. At the same time last year, only 44 percent were considered not difficult to fill. Only 11 percent of the vacancies are considered very difficult to fill.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at or 329-5206.