Weld County’s job growth topped the nation in 2013, surpassing larger counties in Florida, California and Texas, according to numbers provided Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bureau said Weld’s percentage of job growth grew the most in the nation’s largest counties at 6 percent, surpassing the nation’s growth of 1.8 percent in that same time. The county also landed the No. 8 spot on the list in weekly wage growth.
“I think it shows that we’ve had and continue to have long-term success, that this has been a place where companies can grow and expand from the construction side to oil and gas, or manufacturing. So we have a fairly diversified economy,” said Eric Berglund, president and CEO of Upstate Colorado Economic Development.
Weld has moved up considerably on these rankings from previous years, Berglund said. In 2012, Weld County’s job growth ranked No. 7; and in 2010, the county ranked No. 11 in job growth with 2.9 percent growth, which led the state, Berglund said.
“If we didn’t have a high quality work force, these folks wouldn’t be here,” Berglund said. “Overall, everybody wants to be associated with a winner. I think this type of data speaks to the fact that Weld County is winning, and that we are the preferred place to do business.”
While Weld had the largest percentage increase in employment, Douglas County also was on the list with job growth of 5.2 percent — putting it at No. 3 in the nation.
The BLS reported that within Weld, the largest employment increase occurred in construction, which gained 1,864 jobs over the year, a 25.5 percent increase in that category alone.
But that growth is not just in building houses and businesses, Berglund said.
“With the construction, it doesn’t surprise me as much when you look around at the new home growth and the commercial construction we’ve seen,” Berglund said.
Oil and gas has played a large role in that when it comes to building pipelines, roads, natural gas processing facilities and other industry related properties and facilities, Berglund said.
“All these things are interdependent on one another,” he said.
Berglund said manufacturing was credited for previous years’ job growth, especially in 2010.
“That’s when Vestas came in; their jobs were reported in 2010. With all the activity we’ve seen this year, 2014, I think we are well on track to have us maintain our position,” Berglund said.
Many of the oil and gas companies, and even manufacturers such as Vestas and Leprino Foods, have worked to drive up average weekly wages.
“The oil field is definitely driving a lot of it,” said Tami Inskeep, operations manager for Express Employment Professionals, 2711 10th St., Greeley. “The skilled labors are looking for more (employees), and they’re willing to train, so then you have more trained people in the workforce, and people are saying, ‘I want someone willing to work and I’m going to have to pay for it.’ ”
Despite ranking in the top 10 nationwide for wage growth, Weld’s average weekly wage still remains the lowest in the state among the larger counties at $871 a week. Larimer County’s average wage grew 1.4 percent to $900 a week. Denver commanded the highest weekly wage at $1,224, but it only grew 1 percent from the same time last year, according to BLS statistics.
According to statistics from the state Department of Labor, average weekly wages in the fourth quarter of 2013 for construction workers in Weld stood at $1,145 a week. What brought the average down were the low-skilled retail and food services jobs, which averaged $277 a week. Average manufacturing wages stood at $869, while the average oil and gas wage was $1,420.
Average wages for general labor, however, have been going up, Inskeep said. Year to date average wages are $528, or $13.12 an hour. That up from last year’s $12.23 an hour, and $11.10 an hour average in 2012, Inskeep said.
“People are raising their pay rates,” Inskeep said. “We have very few paying under $10 an hour anymore.”