Where Coloradans Work and How Much They're Paid

Where Coloradans Work and How Much They're Paid
Photo by Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash
Colorado employees in the utilities industry bring home an average salary of nearly $100,000 per year. But the annual salary for members of the sector that includes teachers is south of $30,000, and folks in the food service business must try to make ends meet on a typical yearly wage of less than $20,000.

These are among the most striking facts derived from Thursday's initial roll-out of the Economic Census Geographic Area Statistics (ECGAS) by the U.S. Census Bureau. Data for all fifty states from 2017, the most recent available, will continue to arrive at various intervals throughout the year, but the agency chose to start with selected details about Colorado.

The ECGAS study of our state kicks off with a focus on twelve industries. They include utilities; transportation and warehousing; information; finance and insurance; real estate and rental and leasing; professional, scientific and technical services; administrative and support and waste management and remediation services; educational services; health care and social assistance; arts, entertainment and recreation; accommodation and food services; and other services, excluding public administration.

Plenty of information is grouped under each of these employment areas, but we've chosen to focus on two items: the number of employees and the annual payroll. We then did the math to determine the average salary in each field.

The largest payroll is for professional, scientific and technical services, at $15.8 billion, with health care and social assistance just behind, at $15.7 billion. Of the others, only the utility payroll is less than $1 billion, but its compensation is the highest, at an average of more than $97,000 for 9,300-plus staffers.

Of course, not everyone who works at an electrical plant is on the cusp of six figures. Each category includes the highest-paid executives and those at the bottom of the totem pole from a fiscal perspective. As a result, readers will be able to tell at a glance if what they're collecting is above or below the average.

Here's the rundown:

Number of employees: 9,358
Annual payroll: $910,091,000
Average average salary: $97,252.72

Transportation and Warehousing
Number of employees: 70,347
Annual payroll: $3,592,089,000
Annual average salary: $51,062.43

Number of employees: 91,856
Annual payroll: $7,889,904,000
Annual average salary: $85,894.27

Finance and insurance
Number of employees: 111.376
Annual payroll: $9,689,859,000
Annual average salary: $87,001.32

Real estate and rental and leasing
Number of employees: 47,642
Annual payroll: $2,387,790,000
Annual average salary: $50,119.43

Professional, scientific and technical services
Number of employees: 192,964
Annual payroll: $15,801,373,000
Annual average salary: $81,887.67

Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services
Number of employees: 261,328
Annual payroll: $12,109,057,000
Annual average salary: $46,336.63

Educational services
Number of employees: 17,276
Annual payroll: $505,272,000
Annual average salary: $29,247.05

Health care and social assistance
Number of employees: 320,813
Annual payroll: $15,719,701,000
Annual average salary: $48,999.58

Arts, entertainment, and recreation
Number of employees: 58,229
Annual payroll: $1,935,349,000
Annual average salary: $33.236.86

Accommodation and food services
Number of employees: 290,915
Annual payroll: $5,804,076,000
Annual average salary: $19,951.11

Other services (except public administration)
Number of employees: 74,317
Annual payroll: $2,785,058,000
Annual average salary: $37,475.38

As you can see, the averages offer insight to wage disparities within specific fields. We all know, for example, that doctors, physicians and surgeons are highly compensated for their expertise, yet the average salary for a health care and social assistance job in Colorado is less than $50,000 — an indication that nurses, physicians assistants and other support personnel are paid much, much less.

Likewise, full-time public school teachers, particularly those with lengthy experience, receive more than the approximately $29,000 average for people employed in an educational services capacity. That suggests that daycare professionals are even more woefully underpaid than the general public realizes. And the average of just over $19,000 per year for food service workers is definitely hard to swallow.

These results echo our recent analysis of the richest and poorest places in the state, showing that despite Colorado's still-booming economy, plenty of folks face big financial challenges — even when they're gainfully employed.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts