Top job creators

Oil and gas, construction lead the way

Everybody – back to work!

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, businesses in the state added 3,700 nonfarm payroll jobs from December 2014 to January 2015, for a total of 2,496,500 jobs. That number is higher than the peak 2,362,700 jobs in May 2008. Full recovery, the report indicated, occurred in March 2013 when Colorado's nonfarm payroll jobs reached 2,363,500.

More good news from the state: Colorado’s unemployment rate decreased from 5.8 percent in January 2014 to 4.2 percent a year later, which is lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.7 percent.

But it’s important to bear in mind that some industries have created more jobs than others, says Brian Lewandowski, associate director of the Business Research Division of Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder.

According to the school’s jobs report analysis, Colorado’s top industry for growth was mining, which includes oil and gas. The industry added 4,100 jobs from December 2013 to December 2014, an increase of 13.1 percent. Many construction workers who were laid off during the housing bust went to work for oil and gas companies. “They had transferable skills,” Lewandowski says. “Oil and gas pays even higher wages, so the grass was greener.” The construction industry has rebounded with 7.5 percent job growth, the second highest percentage gain. Leisure and hospitality was third, with growth of 5.6 percent, followed by educational and health services. Manufacturing rounded out the top five after a decade-long decline. Lewandowski says the renaissance is due to a variety of products that Colorado companies produce. “We have a lot of high tech and aerospace, and there is growth in craft brewing,” he said. “It is a different story than it was five years ago.”

There have been ups and downs during that time. Denmark-based wind turbine manufacturer Vestas built four plants in Colorado. Demand for wind power fluctuated, and in 2013 Vestas laid off workers, then kickstarted hiring in 2014. Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup partnered with Vestas for hiring last year, and is working with the company again to fill up to 400 positions at a plant in Windsor.

“Job seekers are excited about the positions that are available,” says Frank Armendariz, regional vice president with Manpower. “These are not entry-level positions. They will be making anywhere from $35,000 to $40,000 a year.”

Armendariz adds that confidence in the economy is increasing. According to a recent Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, 21 percent of employers in Colorado expect to hire more in second quarter 2015, while only 1 percent expect to reduce their payrolls. Another 74 percent expect to maintain their current staff levels and 4 percent are not certain of their hiring plans.

But sometimes the actual hiring falls short of the predictions. In 2013, Longmont-based DigitalGlobe indicated it would create 505 jobs over the next five years, and the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade approved the company to receive $4.4 million in Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits. This February, DigitalGlobe announced it would instead cut 64 jobs in Colorado. 

Still, technology is another major creator. According to the Colorado Technology Association, in 2014 there were 186,149 technology jobs in Colorado, or 5,200 more than in 2013. The top sector was computer systems design/IT services, with 50,800 jobs. Other top sectors include engineering services, telecommunications, and R&D and testing labs. The average wage for these jobs is $101,842.

“Talent is in very high demand,” says Erik Mitisek, CEO of the CTA. “Colorado has a very fast growing technology economy.”

Mitisek notes that although there have been cutbacks in some technology subsectors, there is still much demand for Java and SQL programmers, as well as for experts in data science, the business of analyzing technology and making strategic decisions, and engineering, especially in aerospace. There is decreasing demand for customer service representatives in call centers.

The challenge for employers now is to look attractive to top candidates, says Rachael Donaldson, a vice president of at Zayo Group, a Boulder-based provider of bandwidth infrastructure services that completed an initial public offering last year. “We make Zayo an inclusive, flexible workplace, and make (employees) want to work here,” she says. “We are competing with a lot of different companies for this great talent.”

The company hired 234 employees in Colorado last year, and plans to open another office in the Denver Tech Center. The company already has an office in downtown Denver. “Part of what we think is attractive about Zayo is people not having to spend the entire day in their car to get to work,” Donaldson says. Zayo is looking to the future, and has built relationships with the University of Colorado, the University of Denver, and Colorado School of Mines to host career fairs and recruitment events.

Other industries are looking at a slightly less promising future. Oil and gas – a notoriously boom and bust business – is reportedly slowing down as commodity prices have dipped. In March, Tulsa, Okla.-based WPX Energy, which has a presence on the Piceance Basin on the Western Slope, announced on its blog that it would eliminate 11 of 231 positions at its office in Parachute and 25 of 156 jobs at its office in Denver. In early April, Noble Energy cut 100 jobs in Greeley and Denver, citing decling crude oil prices. Though, other oil and gas companies have not made announcements about layoffs, but the industry is unquestionably slowing. According to the Houston-based oil field services company Baker Hughes, the average U.S. rig count for February 2015 was 1,348, down 421 from the 1,769 counted in February 2014. In Colorado the rig count was 37, compared to 61 a year ago.

On the other hand, tourism and hospitality are growing. According to Visit Denver, the Convention & Visitors Bureau, Denver’s tourism industry had its best year ever in 2014. The city set a convention record with 429,497 delegates coming to town in 2014, up 11 percent over 2013. Lodger’s tax collections totaled $19,586,455 in 2014, a 20.7 percent increase over 2013.

The bureau notes that tourism in Denver supports more than 51,000 jobs, which will increase now that Denver added 482 hotel rooms in 2014. (These are not high paying jobs though, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that hotel desk clerks earn a median wage of $9.81 per hour, cooks earn $10.65, and maids and housekeepers earn $9.51.)  The Visit Denver Convention Sales Department booked a total of 842,835 future room nights.

Other industries are looking ahead, too.

According to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, the most promising sectors for job creation will be construction, manufacturing, transportation and utilities, wholesale/retail trade, information, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, other services and government. Hiring in financial activities is expected to remain unchanged.

Armendariz says Manpower is also working with other tech companies to hire people in Colorado. “The market is very dynamic,” he says. “It changed from downturn to recovery. Employers change, and the way people hire changes.”

Categories: Economy/Politics, Magazine Articles