Wages lag in Grand Valley

A recent study conducted by the city of Grand Junction shows Mesa County ranks last in average annual wages among Colorado’s seven most populated communities, even as it steadily becomes more a more place expensive to live.

The study includes April data from the Economic Research Institute and 2003 data from Colorado’s Occupational Employment Statistics Program. The data show Mesa County, with an average annual worker salary of $35,500, ranks anywhere between 2 and 14 percent below the other six metro areas. The OES Program data reveal virtually the same figures.

In years past, employers have been able to respond to gripes about comparatively low wages by pointing out the Grand Valley’s equally low cost-of-living. But ERI data appear to deflate that argument. A federal report released earlier this year showed home prices in the Grand Junction area increased 6.71 percent in 2004, more than any other metro area in Colorado and 2.5 percent more than the state average. Gasoline, utilities and groceries are usually more expensive in the valley than the state’s metro areas. Experts say it’s because more competition for those services on the Front Range drives down prices, and some cities, such as Colorado Springs, own their own utility companies.

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