Wages paid to workers in El Paso County during the first quarter rose 5.1% from a year earlier, the fastest growth rate in two years, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The $50 increase in the county’s average weekly wage to $1,028 was the largest percentage increase since wages rose 8.1% in the first quarter of 2017.
Both increases came after voter-approved hikes in the state’s minimum wage. It rose Jan. 1 from $10.20 an hour to $11.10 as part of annual increases, which began in 2017 and boosted the minimum from $9.30 in 2016 to $12 an hour as of Jan. 1.
The county’s increase was larger than the state’s 4.7% and the nation’s 3.2%. But local wages are still 8.1% below the national average and 16.5% below the statewide average, the report said.
Every major industry sector posted gains from a year ago, with a nearly 9% jump in wages in the professional and business services sector fueling much of the increase.
“We are not going to close the wage gap with the state or nation in the next year, but we are moving in the right direction by increasing faster than the state and nation,” said Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum.
“These increases should continue since the highest number of job postings are for higher-paid professionals in business, technology and health care.”
The gains in employment in the first quarter continued the steady gains of the past two years, adding 5,700 jobs for a 2.1% growth rate.
Local job growth has fluctuated in a narrow range between 1.9% and 2.3% for six consecutive quarters. Nearly half of the growth came from the health care and business and technical services sectors, which each added more than 1,100 jobs in the past year. Retailing posted the biggest decline — 332 jobs, or 1.1%.
The job growth and wage numbers are compiled from unemployment insurance reports that most employers must file every three months. They are a more accurate measure of the county’s job market than the bureau’s monthly data, which is based on a survey of employers. The local unemployment rate comes from the bureau’s survey of households; July numbers are scheduled for release Wednesday.
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