The Mountain States Employers Council has released the results of its Wage Projection Survey for 2005. Overall, things are looking good for workers in the Pikes Peak region. According to the survey results, projected wage increases will average 3.3 percent, up from a projected 3 percent for 2004.

“Typically when there’s an anticipation of wage increases there’s an anticipation of an increase in profitability,” said William Smith Jr., director of the council’s Southern Colorado office. The council’s survey is the largest of its kind in the Mountain West, with 534 employers responding to the 2005 survey. Founded in Denver in 1939, the council has 2,500 member employers. The council provides employment services in human resources, training, employment law and surveys.

Wage increase projections throughout Colorado average 3.4 percent for 2005, according to the survey. “These projections are encouraging,” said Michael G. Severns, president of the council, in a news release. “For the first time since 2002 the annual projected percentage of increase has risen, reflecting an improving state economy and business climate which appear to be giving business confidence in the future.”

Compared to some of the council’s historical data, a 3.3 percent projected wage increase for 2005 in Colorado Springs may seem like small potatoes. The projection for 2004 was at 3.4 percent, while wage increases in 1980 were at 10.1 percent. Patty Goodwin, director of surveys, explained the disparity. “The pay increases have been small, but inflation isn’t that high,” she said. “If you look at the numbers for the early 1980s we were at 10 percent, but inflation was at about 14 percent.”

Nonprofit organizations and the manufacturing industry in the Pikes Peak region have projected wage increases higher than those from 2004. The projected average wage increase within the manufacturing sector is 3.4 percent, up from 2.7 percent. Barry Richards of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center said he is optimistic about the changes he’s seeing within manufacturing. “There’s definitely an increase of job listings with us in the manufacturing sector,” Richards said. “The hiring is up in that area, and yes, they would increase the pay proportionately.”

The projected average wage increase for nonprofit organizations in the region is 3.5 percent for 2005, an improvement over the 3.2 percent projection for 2004. “I thought that was very interesting that that was up because nonprofits tend to be hit the hardest,” Goodwin said. “This may be another sign that the economy is improving.”

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Respondents from the mining industry have projected an increase of 2.5 percent in wages, the lowest of any industry for this year’s survey. However, lower percentages in projected wage increases are not a bad thing, said Peggy Herbertson of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center. “If you’re someone out looking for a job and you see any increase in pay it should be seen as a very positive thing,” she said.

Only 4 percent of survey respondents reported a projected wage freeze for 2005, Goodwin said. This is a significant improvement over the 10 percent of 2004 respondents who anticipated a wage freeze. “The reason the survey is put out is for member companies for their budgets&to help companies budget for the next year,” Goodwin said.

Five-hundred-and-thirty-four employers responded to the survey, but that number has typically been around 630. The council has administered this survey for 26 years. “Some companies said they’re waiting until the last minute before giving projections,” Goodwin said. All projections for 2005 are positive. “I think this is an indication that the economy is starting to turn around,” Herbertson said.

In August and September, employers throughout Colorado and Wyoming answered the following question: “What is the total percentage increase in pay (including merit, general, longevity, cost of living) that the ‘average’ or ‘typical’ employee is projected to receive in 2005 (excluding promotions)?”