January 1, 1998

Salaries of service jobs now higher than average

For the first time, Boulder County service industry jobs in 1996 paid higher than the county’s average salary, according to a University of Colorado economist.

Not only that, but almost one-third of all Boulder County jobs are in the service sector, said Richard Wobbekind, a CU economics professor and director of the business research division at the Graduate School of Business Administration.

Almost 45,000 people, or about one-third of all county residents, work at service jobs with an average wage of $32,628, Wobbekind said in an interview after a presentation of the 33rd annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum in early December.

When most people think of the service industry here, they picture hourly workers who clean hotel rooms, ring up sales at the mall or drive buses on city streets. In truth, the service sector encompasses computer programmers, doctors and nurses, engineers and legal services, Wobbekind said.

“At some level it sort of dispels the notion that every service job is a bad job, and conversely, the manufacturing areas aren’t (always) fabulous,” Wobbekind said.

The average Boulder County wage was $30,967 for 1996. It was lower than the Denver metro area average ($31,627) but higher than the state average, which was $28,517 in 1996.

“You can see why the county does so well. It does strongly in manufacturing and also the services industry,” Wobbekind said. “It has twice as large of a manufacturing base as the rest of the state, and certain parts of that do extremely well.”

Manufacturing jobs, divided by industry, range from average wages of about $20,000 per year in apparel manufacturing to $57,000 for making machinery, Wobbekind said. And similar to a nationwide shift, many of the county’s former large manufacturing concerns, like IBM and Rocky Flats, now are classified in other ways.

When companies started outsourcing, or contracting for work, they also started describing jobs better to researchers, Wobbekind said. That way, people who worked in accounting at IBM, or some other non-manufacturing job, would be counted in more specific areas.

IBM has been classified under the service sector since 1990. Rocky Flats is now classified under transportation, communications and public utilities.

Federal government wages, another traditional powerhouse in the Boulder County economy, averaged $52,561 in 1996. About 2,600 people go to work every day at federal labs like the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Service industry jobs include 17,000 people in “business services,” an area that includes all temporary workers, and software and software peripherals support. Auto repair, legal services, private-sector educational services, amusement and recreation services and home alarm system services also make up the service industry figures.

Each year, Wobbekind gathers a team of leading economists, business executives and education and government leaders to create a comprehensive statewide forecast. The group develops its work based interviews with business and industry leaders and economic projections.

For the first time, Boulder County service industry jobs in 1996 paid higher than the county’s average salary, according to a University of Colorado economist.

Not only that, but almost one-third of all Boulder County jobs are in the service sector, said Richard Wobbekind, a CU economics professor and director of the business research division at the Graduate School of Business Administration.

Almost 45,000 people, or about one-third of all county residents, work at service jobs with an average wage of $32,628, Wobbekind said in an interview after a presentation of…

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