Some Eagle County businesses are boosting their pay rates
The valley’s chronic employee shortage has been exacerbated by the pandemic and booming real estate market
Aryn Schlichting runs the Vail Valley portion of the Mountain Careers website. She said she’s noticed over the past few weeks that “employers are starting to get competitive on wages.”
In this case, “competitive” means some landscapers are hiring at $20 or more.
Vacasa, a national property management firm with a presence in the Vail Valley, is also paying well.
In an email, Aurora Moore of Vacasa wrote in an email that the firm is currently hiring housekeepers for its Vail Valley operations. Pay for those jobs is $22 per hour, as well as a $750 sign-on and retention bonus for new housekeepers and “maintenance runners.”
Moore added that Vacasa has seen “an uptick in candidates” since unveiling the increased pay and bonuses at the beginning of May.
Moore added that, at least to this point, Vacasa hasn’t passed on those pay increases to its clients.
Vacasa isn’t the only firm boosting wages and/or benefits. Schlichting noted that Eagle County, one of the valley’s largest employers, has been offering free classes at Colorado Mountain College in addition to its pay and benefits packages.
It’s hard to track
Mark Hoblitzell, the Northwest Colorado Workforce Area Business Services coordinator for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, wrote in an email that the trend toward higher pay isn’t yet pronounced enough to track accurately.
“The market is still quite dynamic,” he wrote.
But, Hoblitzell added, there’s some anecdotal evidence of increases in starting wages. But, he noted, the valley had an employee shortage before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a virtual economic shutdown in March of 2020. That shortage is expected to continue as the economy recovers.
Mark Herron is the local representative of InvitedHome, a high-end residential rental company. He also serves as the lodging liaison for the town of Vail, working with the Vail Local Marketing District. He’s also the current board president of the Vail Valley Partnership.
Herron said InvitedHome generally uses contract labor for maintenance, engineering and other operations.
Those firms are all busier than usual, and most are struggling to find employees, Herron said. In some cases, those firms’ rates have gone up.
“What I’m hearing from the lodging sector … and across the board, there are more openings than people to fill them,” Herron said.
Part of the problem is there may be fewer people in the valley to fill those jobs.
New realities, old problems
In the wake of the 2020 layoffs, furloughs and business capacity cuts, a number of people left the valley and haven’t come back, Herron said.
Complicating matters is the valley’s also-chronic housing shortage. Herron said that shortage has reached a “pinnacle,” given the valley’s red-hot real estate market.
That means it can be “a bit of a bidding war to find people,” Herron said. Even properties that offer some housing can’t keep up with demand, he added.
Adding to the shortage is the cutoff of guest worker and student visas a couple of years ago.
The shortage may lead to a reduction in service levels provided by valley businesses, Herron said.
Schlichting noted that housekeeping, landscaping, maintenance and other positions shouldn’t be thought of as entry-level positions.
Those positions are “so crucial to businesses,” Schlichting said.
A recent staycation at a local hotel really hammered the point home, Schlichting said.
“The housekeeping staff is so wonderful,” she said. That quick in-valley trip prompted the realization that some jobs that used to be viewed as entry-level involve more, Schlichting added.
“We need to have solid employees who know (about their jobs),” she said.
As of Jan. 1 of this year, employers in Colorado are required to post the salary range for all positions.