Quick links: How Colorado compares | More job openings sources | Median pay flat or falling | Colorado’s wage data | Coolest thing made in Colorado
After seeing a decline in online job openings in Colorado earlier this year, the number is going back up, according to a new jobs report that tracks who’s hiring.
The report, which will be released next week by the Colorado Chamber and Aspen Tech Labs, found that the number of job vacancies grew 1% to about 121,600 in the third quarter, compared with the second quarter, which was down 8% from the first quarter.
Such a small rate change is considered stable. But finding enough workers remains a challenge, said Loren Furman, the chamber’s president and CEO.
“This was raised in a significant way through our 2022 and 2023 statewide business surveys. A lack of skilled workers were in the top two concerns for business,” Furman said in an email. The business advocacy group plans to push for legislation next year to address workforce concerns.
However, she added, “while we have a long way to go in addressing the major issues driving our workforce challenges, more certainty and stability in the jobs market would be welcome news for Colorado employers.”
The trend nationwide was the opposite. Aspen Tech reported there are fewer job openings in the U.S., which showed a decline of 1.2% in the comparable periods. That’s after the second quarter saw a drop of 6%.
Regardless, there are still a ton of job openings, according to Aspen, which only tracks jobs posted online. As the report itself asks, “So what gives? How can we have rock-bottom unemployment, historically high labor market participation, and historically high numbers of job vacancies?”
One explanation is that people, particularly highly educated men, are working fewer hours than before the pandemic, which may shrink the size of the labor force. Health care and transportation employers continue to face the same hiring challenges as before the pandemic, while third-quarter restaurant and food-prep hiring, up 5%, is just getting back to normal.
Colorado could be ahead of the nation partly because it was a leader in salary transparency, said Isabelle Woodrow, a senior product manager at Aspen. Knowing how much a job pays provides more options for choosy job hunters.
“When we look at vacancies per capita (1,000 people), Colorado is at number nine,” she said. “In general, states that had the largest growth, which was Vermont, Rhode Island, North Dakota and Alaska, were smaller states. … The bigger states brought the numbers down. And I know Colorado is not super small but it’s in the middle, populationwise. They follow the same pattern as some of the smaller states.”
Aspen analysts also point to the slowing economy that caused many employers to pull back on hiring in the past year. Job vacancies at S&P 500 companies are 85% where they were last year, according to the S&P’s job index.
Still, because Colorado was the first state to require that job postings must share salary levels, the state stands out and tends to regularly rank high for job vacancy growth, Woodrow said.
“Colorado, this quarter, still looks like employers are looking for people to hire. It’s calmed down a little bit. But we’re not totally out of the woods in terms of employers. And for job seekers, it’s still a good time to be a job seeker,” she said. “Employment is low, there are still lots of jobs available.”
The situation is looking up, confirmed Erica Ferris, director of marketing for Monarch Casino Resort Spa. During the pandemic recovery, the resort held job fairs and hired people on the spot. In late 2020, it needed to hire 250 to 300 more employees, mostly for regular hotel services like food, housekeeping and security.
“Monarch Casino is seeing more applications across all areas of its resort,” Ferris said in an email. It has about 100 openings.
Hiring has always been a challenge for the casino because of its location in Black Hawk, about an hour’s drive west of Denver. They subsidize transportation with bus passes and pay more than minimum wage and offer a lot of bonuses. But it’s still tough to keep people around long term. The job fair has turned into a weekly event, held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday at the Bistro Mariposa. The perks continue.
“Monarch Casino is mindful of what its team members need now and leading up to retirement, offering both competitive compensation and a 401(k) plus match program to differentiate itself in front of a vast pool of candidates,” Ferris added. “Additionally, Monarch addresses travel to and from the resort with heavily subsidized bus passes, while providing a free meal for all team members inside a large, thoughtfully appointed break room.”
More perspectives: JOLTS, Colorado’s job board
While Aspen’s data is based on online job openings that the company has collected, deduped and analyzed, there are other sources for the number of job openings.
The monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses sampling to estimate job openings by state. In August, Colorado’s number of openings was 204,000, up from a two-year low of 181,000 in June and a high of 243,000 last October.
The state’s job board at ConnectingColorado.com is free for companies to post openings and also a required registration site for Coloradans collecting unemployment benefits. In August 2022, the number of openings shot up to about 150,000. That number is now around 85,000.
I’ve charted out the number of openings based on my own sporadic collection of data since January 2021:
New job listings show decline in pay
Colorado is also still in the lead nationwide for the percent of online jobs with salaries listed. The state was the first to pass a wage-transparency law and Aspen Tech, which only tracks jobs listed online, began tracking this earlier this year.
But the median pay for listings that showed a wage declined 2.9% nationally and 1.3% in Colorado, according to Aspen data. Colorado’s median full-time salary for job listings fell to $57,491, which is higher than the U.S. average to $54,080.
Woodrow pointed out that the Aspen data is only based on listings with a salary posted, and not all jobs list them. Plus, it excludes data if there’s confusion on whether a number represents salary. That happened in England where a job listing said the worker must be able to lift 40 pounds, the same name for some British currency.
She also theorized that the slight decline in wages could be because “perhaps it’s getting a bit easier to hire people.”
Employers may no longer be offering bonuses or higher pay just to attract applicants, as they did in the past two years. Plus, Aspen noted, in states with wage transparency laws, like Colorado, job listings with the salary listed attracted about 50% more applications than those without a salary.
“That’s probably why wages are going down as opposed to people making less compared to inflation,” Woodrow said. “I just think companies aren’t having to offer as much as they did to get workers in the door.”
Colorado’s wage growth
In September, average hourly earnings dipped 16 cents in August to $35.74 an hour, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. That’s still up 3.8% from a year ago. The change in inflation during that one-year period? Consumer prices are up 5.4% in the Denver-metro area.
This also translates to less spending power. While earnings are up 3.6% this year, earnings adjusted for inflation are down 1.9%, according to the state labor department.
Other working bits
➔ OSIRIS-REx may be the coolest thing made in Colorado but here’s what didn’t win. The NASA mission to the asteroid Bennu returned to Earth last month with a sample of dirt from the asteroid. The spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, was developed by Lockheed Martin Space at its Littleton headquarters and won the Colorado Chamber’s “Coolest Thing Made in Colorado” contest. What didn’t win? The TAGSAM, which was also developed by Lockheed at its Waterton Canyon campus in Littleton. The touch-and-go sample acquisition mechanism includes a container that is stubbornly staying shut. NASA is trying a new approach so check its blog for updates. >> OSIRIS-REx video, TAGSAM story
➔ Inflation spurred Gen Z to change spending habits. About 73% of this generation — people born between 1996 and 2010 — have adjusted their spending habits because of the higher cost of living, according to a new study by Bank of America. In Denver, Gen Z buyers accounted for 39% of the homes purchased last year, and that’s an important demographic for the bank, which offers mortgages. While presumably Coloradans of all ages adjusted their spending due to inflation, the Gen Zers’ spending dropped 2% last year while baby boomers and the Silent Generation spent more, at 2.5% and 5%, respectively, likely due an increase in Social Security payments and lower housing costs. >> Report
Thanks for sticking with me for this week’s report. Remember to check out The Sun’s daily coverage online. As always, share your 2 cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at cosun.co/heyww. ~ tamara
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