Bigger salaries, but fewer hires

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Wage earners can expect to bring home slightly larger paychecks this year, but securing one of those paychecks might not be easy in Colorado Springs.

Projected wage increases will average 3.5 percent for the Pike’s Peak region, the same as for 2006, according to the Mountain States Employers Council Pay Increase Projections Survey.

“The 3.5 is good because it is very close to other communities. Denver is projected at 3.6 percent,” said Patty Goodwin, director of surveys for Mountain States Employers Council’s Southern Region office in Colorado Springs.

According to the survey, the largest wage increase is in the financial sector with 4.4 percent for 2007, compared to 3.5 percent projected for 2006. Health care had the smallest projected increase at 2.8 percent for 2007, compared to 3.6 percent for 2006.

With the health care shortage, it is surprising that the wage increase projects fell from the 2006 numbers, she said.

“Throughout all the Front Range it was the same — everywhere the health care dropped and oil and gas went up,” Goodwin said. “The pay increase for Colorado Springs is right on for what the inflation numbers are projected.”

But, the hiring forecast for Colorado Springs is among the weakest in the nation, according to Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

From the first quarter of 2007, only 10 percent of local companies interviewed said they planned to hire more employees. Thirty-eight percent expect to reduce their payrolls and 45 percent expect to maintain their current staffing levels.

“Fred Crowley and EDC are disputing that. I would dispute that as well,” said Jim Kynor, business services manager at Pikes Peak Workforce Center. “We have a much more positive outlook from what we are seeing.”

The Workforce Center is receiving job postings from a variety of employers, including high tech, he said.

“We are way below national average unemployment rates and we see every indication that next year is going to be a good year for hiring,” Kynor said.

Karen Maldanado, a staffing specialist at Manpower, said 30 local businesses completed the survey.

“I think it will change for the next quarter. I don’t think it is doom and gloom for hiring here in Colorado Springs,” she said.

Of the 14,000 U.S. employers surveyed, 23 percent said they were expecting to add to their payrolls. Eleven percent expect to reduce staffing levels and 60 percent expect no change in the hiring pace.

Total employment growth in Colorado is projected at 1.4 percent for 2007.

Looking back at 2006, staffing services had a strong year, with growth outpacing the economy; technology continued to be an employment leader; voters approved increasing the minimum wage; and older workers were in high demand.

Staffing services

Cari Shaffer of Add Staff said that as of the week ending Dec. 3, her company had a 26 percent increase in direct placement.

“More Colorado Springs employers are realizing the benefit of outsourcing their management and executive placement to staffing agencies,” she said.

Technical placement also broke a record.

“This quarter we had a 29 percent increase in placements compared to the same quarter last year in volume of business on technical side … our primary focus is higher level jobs,” said Joe Swanson, director of technical staffing at Add Staff.

“This is big since the slowdown after the big lay offs — it shows that we are having an IT comeback,” Shaffer said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment services industry — which is primarily staffing — will grow at an average annual rate of 3.8 percent through 2014, adding nearly 1.6 million new jobs.

Technology

The outlook for the most promising jobs during the next decade is definitely high tech.

The Colorado Department of Labor says that the need for computer support specialists will grow the most through 2014. Employment in graphic design is expected to grow faster than average and the same holds true for commercial and industrial designers, interior designers, multimedia artists and animators, with average annual starting salaries ranging from $30,000 to $75,000.

DOL also is predicting that there will be a greater need for workers in biotechnology, health care, financial services, homeland security and information technology.

“Certainly Colorado Springs is high-tech oriented,” said Jim Kynor, the manager of business relations at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. “Information technology cuts across all industries.”

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is interested in growing bio-technology businesses in the Pikes Peak region.

Minimum wage

Amendment 42 passed in November, increasing the minimum wage in Colorado to $6.85 an hour. The restaurant industry perhaps will be hit the hardest by the increase.

“It’s a little bit frightening,” said Luke Travins, managing partner of Concept Restaurants, which has four restaurants in downtown Colorado Springs. “Maybe not for the non-tipped such as chefs, counting staff and managers who currently make more than the proposed $6.85 an hour, but for those who make a living off of tips, adjustments will have to be made such as fewer overtime hours.”

According to National Restaurant Association and Colorado Restaurant Association, Colorado restaurants in 2006 generated $470 million in state and local sales; there are about 9,500 locations offering foodservice in Colorado and the restaurant industry will provide jobs for 12.8 million people in 935,000 locations in 2007.

Aging work force

Differing generations are working side by side in a competitive environment and the number of mature workers continues to increase.

According to global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., older workers are in high demand.

Challenger’s analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data found that as of August, the number of workers 55 and older reached 24.6 million, the highest level recorded. About one-fourth (5.2 million) were 65 and older.

According to surveys by AARP, 70 percent of baby boomers plan to continue working during their retirement years.

Census data shows that the number of people 65 and older is expected to increase 26 percent by 2015, while the population between the ages of 40 to 54 will shrink by 5 percent. The number of Americans 25 to 39 will grow by only 6 percent.

The PPWFC, in conjunction with AARP, developed a 55-plus networking group that focused on helping mature workers understand their employment options.

Joan.Johnson@csbj.com