Colorado’s lowest-paid workers have been hit hardest by job losses from restrictions to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, statistics from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment show.
Jobs such as food preparation and serving, personal care and services and sales-related positions shed the most jobs in the 12 months that ended in May 2020, according to occupational employment and wage data released this week by the department and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. All three job categories pay at least 20% less than the state’s median wage of $22.52 per hour and combined shed more than 70,000 jobs during the 12-month period.
At the same time, combined employment in scientific, mathematical, computer and engineering jobs — most of which pay more than the median wage — grew by 6,750, or 3.1%, during the same period.
Workers in technical jobs were more easily able to work from home than those in restaurants, retailing and personal services workers such as barbers, massage therapists, said Ryan Gedney, the department’s senior economist. Jobs in transportation and material moving also grew, mostly because of booming online merchandise sales, he said.
The categories that lost the most jobs also had the highest wage gains with the average wage for those working in sales as well as food preparation and serving increasing by more than 6% between May 2019 and May 2020.
Gedney said wages for the lowest-paid workers increased the fastest because the job cuts focused mostly on the those at the very bottom of the wage scale, pushing the average higher.
The loss of low-wage jobs fueled the biggest gain in the median wage in Colorado Springs, statewide and nationwide in at least 10 years, each increasing by more than 5% between May 2019 and May 2020.
The local median wage lost ground, compared with the national average, going from 3 cents below the national average in 2019 to 5 cents below the average in 2020 at $20.12 per hour.
Colorado’s median wage gained ground during the same period, going from 11.2% above the national average in 2019 to 11.4% above the average in 2020.
The occupational data is based on survey of about 3,600 businesses in Colorado that is conducted twice a year for three years then combined to produce estimates covering more than 800 job categories for the entire state. The businesses included in the surveys employ about 1.2 million people, or nearly half of the state’s labor force.