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Survey predicts small increases in wages

The Associated Press

Raises for workers across Colorado and Wyoming will be disappointing again next year because of the nation’s uncertain economic picture, according to a survey of employers.
Wage increases will average 3.2 percent in 2004, compared with increases of 3.7 percent projected in 2003 — a figure that is expected to fall to 3.4 percent once the final numbers are tallied.
If the 2004 prediction holds up, it would be the smallest increase since the Mountain States Employers Council began surveying employers 28 years ago and the third straight decline.
“People were optimistic two years ago,” said Patty Goodwin, the council’s director of surveys. “They just don’t see when things are going to turn around yet.”
The survey of 630 employers, released Thursday, also found companies are struggling to pay health-care costs that rose an average of 18 percent in Colorado last year. Similar increases are expected this year.
National surveys are projecting wage increases of less than 4 percent on average for the first time in history, Goodwin said.
Tom Dunn, chief economist at the Colorado Legislative Council, said the numbers didn’t surprise him.
“To a great extent, companies have been holding back on pay increases to help out their bottom line,” Dunn said. “They’ve been relying on productivity.”
A good indicator of wage growth is job creation and Colorado ranked 49th in the United States in job growth last year, Dunn said.