Two years after a Colorado law began requiring job postings to say how much a job paid, the state has the highest wage transparency rate in the nation.
Of course, that’s not a big surprise. Colorado was the first to pass a law. Its Equal Pay for Equal Work Act passed in 2019. Several states followed. And so has interest by companies hunting for wage transparency trends, or building businesses around it.
Aspen Tech Labs, an advertising-tech agency in Aspen focused on recruitment, is one of them. They developed a salary parsing tool to extract wage information from job postings. It started tracking salaries last year as part of its overall business, which is to “monitor over 6 million jobs just in the U.S. from over 120,000 different sources,” sales manager Gabby Schulte said.
Tracking salary data helps the company respond to customers who want to get a better sense of what competitors pay. It also gives them insight into whether companies are complying. Aspen Tech Labs found that the number of Colorado job openings with salaries went from 35% in October to 49% in January. That’s a 40% increase in three months.
As of Friday, Colorado’s rate was 61%, which was the highest wage transparency rate nationwide. If it wasn’t for Colorado’s Equal Pay law, it’s unlikely this would have happened. The law aims to reach pay parity for women and underrepresented workers doing the same work as white men.
“The top four are states that have legislation, first Colorado, then California, Washington and New York,” said Ryan Gifford, a data analyst for the company. “Overall in the U.S., we’re seeing about 25% of jobs (include) a salary. And that trend has increased about 10% in the last six months. So we are seeing a steady increase and I think that’s a result of some pressure from the states that have legislation.”
Colorado’s law passed in 2019 and went into effect in January 2021. New York City’s law went into effect in November. Laws from California and Washington started in January, with the state of New York expected to start this year.
Aspen Tech Labs found that even though a few out-of-state companies may still exclude Coloradans from applying for their remote jobs — a violation of the state law — most do comply. As of Friday, there were 3,980 remote vacancies in Colorado. Of those, 66% posted a salary. In the U.S., there were 215,616 remote vacancies, with 47% sharing a salary.
“There are still listings that exclude Colorado applicants, but it’s difficult to quantify how many because of how each employer phrases it,” Gifford said.
But what happened to the 40% of jobs that don’t share wages? Some just aren’t sharing it and are out of compliance, said Isabelle Woodrow, Aspen’s product manager. But she also admitted that the tool may not be extracting the needed information and “could be missing salaries in some cases.” It’s a work in progress.
It’s also too early to say if the laws have had the intended effect of pay equity. But one other detail showing up in Aspen’s data is that pay seems to be dropping overall, as seen in this chart.
Woodrow said the decline in hourly wages is probably due to the volume of new job postings sharing salaries. Lower-wage jobs tend to dominate the listings so that could be pulling the overall figures down, too.
In Colorado, for example, health care jobs had the largest share of job postings, followed by information technology jobs and then food service and retail. Food and retail top out at around $20 an hour, while health care jobs are less than $30 an hour. The lowest range of salaries for IT jobs hovered above $35 an hour with the mid range higher than $50 an hour.
Wage transparency data has given job seekers a basic tool they didn’t have before: a solid pay expectation. And for employers?
“Our customers want to understand what’s happening in the employment market,” Schulte said. “It’ll tell you if you’re starting a business or opening a new location and have to hire people, what do you have to pay to attract talent.”
➔ Related: A survey conducted by job-search site Adzuna found that companies that embraced wage transparency attracted more job seekers. Some 54% declined the job offer after finding out the salary while one-third of job seekers said they wouldn’t even show up for the interview without knowing how much the job paid, according to an analysis by the Society for Human Resource Management.
An update on the second Equal Pay law
As previously reported, there’s a new bill moving through the state Senate to fix confusion around the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. Public testimony began Tuesday on Senate Bill 105, the Ensure Equal Pay For Equal Work bill.
Posting how much a job pays? Not the issue.
It’s the administrative burdens, often unknown to the general public, that have some businesses riled. Jess Kostelnik, senior government affairs manager at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, described it as unintended consequences.
“It accidentally made it more difficult to promote internal candidates and award in-line or step promotions. It muddied the water on collective bargaining agreements,” Kostelnik testified. “It also made Coloradans less desirable, and sometimes even ineligible for remote jobs where an employer was out of state.”
Some of that appears to be getting cleared up with the new bill, like the “step” promotions. For deserving employees progressing in their career — going from a level one to two or three, for example — employers must notify everyone else in the company and share the wage. This bill lifts that requirement, at least for promotions. For job openings? Employers must still spread the word to staff about every new job opening. Even if they are for remote positions.
The bill also doesn’t touch remote openings, which led many out-of-state employers to exclude Coloradans from applying after the law went into effect in January 2021. The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Jessie Danielson, a Democrat from Wheat Ridge, said the move to water down protections for remote workers just wasn’t acceptable to sponsors and would defeat the purpose of the law.
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Scott Moss, director of the division of labor standards and statistics at the Department of Labor and Employment, called the issue of excluding Colorado applicants for remote jobs “yesterday’s problem.”
“Over the course of 2022 through extensive effort, the number of such postings — they’re public so we can look at these — has dropped steadily. … It’s now down about 90% from what it was,” Moss said. “We continue to police it but that’s yesterday’s problem.”
But, he added, the requirement for out-of-state employers to notify all remote staff in Colorado of any job opportunity, even if there’s just one worker, is difficult to enforce.
“It’s causing a lot of headache and potentially reluctance,” Moss said, “if by keeping one Colorado worker, you have to tell that remote worker about 1,000 job opportunities at your company.”
Amendments are being proposed but the committee laid over the bill to allow for more testimony. The committee is scheduled to meet again at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
➔ The cost of ensuring an updated equal pay bill? Approximately $1.5 million in the first fiscal year, according to Senate Bill 105’s fiscal note. >> Read note
Readers mostly agree home ownership
The spike in housing prices in recent years and the yearlong run-up in interest rates has shut many would-be homeowners out of the market.
But at 61%, most What’s Working readers do own, at least that’s the outcome of the latest reader poll (not a newsletter subscriber? Get it delivered each Saturday by signing up right here). That 61% rate, by the way, is lower than the state’s fourth-quarter homeownership rate of 69.7%, which ranks us 23rd nationwide, according to census data.
It’s definitely disheartening to see responses like this: “No, I’m homeless” or “I’ve paid landlords’ mortgages half my life but now I’m homeless due to rent increases.”
For folks struggling, please check with resources available at 211colorado.org (or call 2-1-1) for help with bills. The Community Economic Defense Project, at cedproject.org, also provides legal help for renters facing eviction.
Several readers had similar solutions to the dilemma. More affordable housing! More living wages! Restrict second homes that become Airbnbs! Deed restrictions! Zoning changes allowing dense housing and smaller homes! More stuff like Habitat for Humanity!
A handful of comments, edited for space:
“The present homeowner model prohibits low-income participation. Mortgages favor only the underwriters/financial companies. The monthly mortgage payment (or rent) simply pulls cash away from workers,” John Westover of Fort Collins wrote.
“Creating small house alternatives. Not everyone needs a large house, but building new houses that are smaller to keep construction costs down might be an alternative solution to government intervention. I don’t need a big house, I just want one to call my own,” Luke Munchrath in Littleton said.
“Invest in public-owned affordable housing and implement rent control with a building-age carveout — for example, buildings become subject to rent control, say, 10 years after construction,” Roxann Elliott in Federal Heights wrote.
Thanks to everyone who participated. Play again?
This week’s poll: The tipping point
Down to 487 unemployed workers still waiting 10+ weeks
A monthslong wait for unemployed Coloradans to get jobless benefits processed appears to finally be shortening. The state Department of Labor and Employment said there are 7,941 claims that have been waiting more than four weeks to process. Of those, 487 have waited 10 weeks or longer.
That’s down from Dec. 5, when 11,514 claims older than 4 weeks needed to be processed. Of those, nearly 2,000 had waited 11 or more weeks.
The backlog was blamed on old pandemic claims that had to be adjudicated, as per federal law. And if anyone remembers what happened in the pandemic, it was a pay first, ask questions later. But the backlog really devastated Coloradans late last year and this year because they were relying on that income as they hunted for a new job.
“We continue to make progress reducing our backlog and anticipate getting back to the four-to-six-week processing time by the end of March 2023,” said Philip Spesshardt, director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance.
➔ Unemployment office has 50 customer service openings. And 30 of them require someone who speaks Spanish. The customer service jobs pay $22.26 to $32.57 an hour and are full time with medical benefits, paid holidays, vacation and sick leave and a RTD Eco-Pass. They’re also hybrid. Having 50 more bodies helping unemployed workers wouldn’t have necessarily sped up the time to process claims, Spesshardt said. The call for employees is just part of agency’s ongoing need to fill vacancies due to promotions or attrition. >> Apply by Feb. 28 for English or for bilingual jobs
Other working bits
➔ Calling all female tech entrepreneurs. Applications to join the third Tech Venture Accelerator for Women are being accepted by the Colorado Small Business Development Center. There are 10 spots for the program, which is scheduled to meet online for two hours on Thursday mornings starting April 13 to June 15. The goal is to help women entrepreneurs who are in science and technology businesses to get past hurdles with the help of specialized expertise relevant to the business. Costs are waived for the companies that are accepted. A virtual session to learn more about the program is scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 2. >> Register for webinar, program details
➔ Confused about FAMLI? The labor department’s Family and Medical Leave Insurance division is hosting four webinars to answer questions about the new family leave law that requires employers to comply and started deducting money from workers’ paychecks last month. The hourlong virtual sessions are at 11:30 a.m. (English) and 3:30 p.m. (Spanish) on Feb. 28 and March 21. >> Details, bookmark for live stream
➔ Home Depot’s new starting wage is $15. The home-improvement retailer said it upped starting wages for all employees to $15 an hour on Feb. 6 and will invest $1 billion to do so, CNBC reported. The company announced the pay raise during its fourth-quarter earnings, where it also mentioned that it earned $3.4 billion in net income during the same quarter. In Denver, where minimum wage is $17.29 an hour, advertised pay for a cashier position at a Home Depot store is $18 to $19 an hour. In Pueblo, it’s $16.50.
More Sun economy stories
➔ EPA mixes science and trash: Reporter Nancy Lofholm goes behind U.S. Environmental Protection Agency help wanted ads with “The government will pay you $30 an hour to sort through Telluride’s trash in the name of social science” >> Read
➔ Grocery starts to start selling wine on March 1. We knew this was coming after voters approved a state measure to let grocery stores sell wine. Reporter Elliott Wenzler shares the update. >> Read
➔ Colorado goes analog with affordable internet awareness. The state seems stuck in reaching 600,000 or more low-income Coloradans who are eligible for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, so now it’s tapping local libraries, community centers and more to better connect with locals. ACP offers up to $30/month to pay for internet service. >> Read
Miss a column? Catch up:
- What’s Working: When Colorado’s tight labor market met the state’s housing affordability issue
- What’s Working: Colorado business bankruptcies decline; startups on the rise
- What’s Working: Get ready for Colorado’s wage transparency law, part 2
- What’s Working: Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped, but so did the number of people in the workforce
- What’s Working: How Colorado’s high egg and energy prices mesh with its slowing inflation
What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column about surviving in today’s economy. Email email@example.com with stories, tips or questions. Read the archive, ask a question at cosun.co/heyww and don’t miss the next one by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww.