BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
What are employers willing to pay for staff in a job market with more vacancies than willing individuals to fills them?
During the week of May 30, almost 700 positions were advertised on one online site.
While some jobs advertised online in Guam give wages or entry level wages of $9.25 per hour — the minimum wage — many do not.
Those that posted higher figures online include $11 to $15 per hour for an administrative assistant, “up to” $20 per hour for a delivery driver, $12 to $23 per hour for administrative support and $16.50 to $17.50 for a maintenance worker. Other local ads offered work for servers from $11 per hour.
Guam Temps Inc. predominantly supplies temporary staff to a variety of clients in Guam, though the staffing agency does have contracts with companies where there is an option to convert personnel to permanent employees.
Jenynne Guzman, president of Guam Temps Inc., told the Journal, “In our market we are seeing it’s getting more competitive.”
Rates for employees of Guam Temps are also competitive, she said. “We always try to move above the minimum wage. We start above $10.”
She said an average hourly rate would be $14.92, but at the level of administrative assistants and general laborers the average would be $11 to $12 per hour. Wages also depend on experience and background, Guzman said. Client positions range from cashiers and customer service staff up through the gamut to more specialized positions such as system engineers.
Contracts vary from filling a position during a permanent employee’s maternity leave to positions related to a specific contract, with some contracts stretching from six months to a year.
Guam Temps clients include Mobil Oil Guam, Matson Navigation Co., Coast360 Federal Credit Union, Xerox, the University of Guam’s TRIO Upward Bound Program, Cabras Marine Corp. and United Airlines.
A weekly average of Guam Temps staff in client positions would currently be up to 30 per week. “Pre-pandemic we were up to 35 to 40,” Guzman said.
Filling positions is an ongoing challenge in Guam, Guzman said, particularly since people have recently been leaving island for the U.S. mainland. “It’s always been hard. That’s why companies come to us.”
The availability of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance affected applicants, she said. “They didn’t want jobs.”
People new to the island from the U.S. mainland have a higher expectation of their worth and salaries, she said. “With the cost of living, it doesn’t match up.”
Guzman and her team have found through their own research that salary is not always the primary concern. “That’s what we’re finding out too — wages are not the number one priority.” Employees are looking for more flexibility and quality of life, she said and opportunities such as support for going to school. “What they perceive as benefits they value differently.”
A focus on established benefits such as vacation pay and 401(k) is typically dependent on age. “People 30 and up are more interested in benefits,” she said.
There is skepticism in the island’s workforce as to potential on-island, Guzman said. “They don’t see Guam as an opportunity to grow in a career.” She challenges that attitude, she said. “The states don’t have it all. We do have great benefits and jobs locally.”
According to Journal files, Bank of Hawaii increased its minimum wage from $12 to $15 per hour from Jan. 1, 2018. Macy’s announced in November that it would pay associates $15 per hour at all stores from May 1. From February, the retail chain offered 100% tuition books and fees for education options for “U.S. based regular, salaried and hourly colleagues.”
The Nov. 9 release said, “Once all these investments are made, average base pay will be above $17/hour and average total pay will be $20/hour.” In addition, Macy’s added an additional flexible day off. The retailer said, “This investment is part of Macy’s ongoing commitment to attract and retain talent critical to its continued growth … .”
According to Journal files, on Nov. 24 the U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule increasing the hourly minimum wage to $15 for federal contract employees from Jan. 30 — up from $10.95 an hour. The rule also eliminated the tip minimum wage.
From Jan. 1, 2023, “The Department’s ruling can lead to future pay increases,” U.S. DOL said.
Of the 3,400 persons as of December who were not looking for work, reasons included school attendance, family responsibilities or a lack of childcare, with 680 not finding work or believing no job was available.
In September 2021, the number of persons not in the labor force was 54,190.
The highest figure for persons not in the labor force prior to the pandemic was in June 2019, when unemployment was at 4.6% for a civilian population of 123,70.
The lowest figure for Guam of persons not in the labor force in the last decade was 44,770 in March 2011, when unemployment was at 13.3% for a civilian population of 199,720.
Guam’s employment statistics are available at www.bls.guam.gov. mbj