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Job market growing on Guam

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Employment on Guam continues to grow and so have hourly wages. And with the implementation of a new minimum wage and several new businesses opening, what does it mean for the rest of the year?

The Guam job market continues to grow, as chief economist Gary Hiles notes, "The Employment Report just released for December 2014 shows that employment on Guam has gone up over the year by about 500 jobs." Hiles says the latest current employment report from the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the total number of jobs on Guam have remained relatively constant in the last quarter up 570 jobs or 0.9% from the previous time period a year ago.

"We've seen increases primarily in tourist related areas, transportation, retail trade and medical services. It would have gone up more expect for a temporary dip in construction in December some projects were nearing completion," he said.

Construction employment was down by 520 jobs this past quarter and down even more over the year. And while private sector jobs declined in the last quarter, it was up by 410 compared to the prior year's figures. Retail jobs increased by 30 jobs along with hotel employment by 110 jobs this past quarter. So what can expect for 2015? Hiles projected, "I think the trend that it will continue to increase and that's driven by increased tourism primarily from Korea and increased air service that will facilitate that, as well as a new hotel coming online that is already hiring."

The next employment report is set to be released by late April. In just the first two months of the year, more than 3,000 people applied for 350 open positions at a job fair for the new Dusit Thani Guam Resort. Forever21, which is opening soon, also held a job fair for up to 70 positions where hundreds applied. Hiles says while the employment figures won't increase dramatically, it will be noticeable. "Not only those stores, but there's a number of other restaurants that scheduled for opening this year, and in addition I think the construction will pick back up a little bit. It's already at a high level and based on the building permits and DOD contracts that's expected to continue.

"Also, an award for just nearly $90 million came out for a new military construction project, so I think that's going to support the continued level of construction and probably a modest expansion."

Along with jobs, the report shows that average hourly earnings in the private sector increased by 3.4% from $12.77 to $13.20. The Governor's Office notes that considering the decrease in construction jobs which typically pay more, the increase in the average hourly earnings is even more impressive. Hiles adds although the new minimum wage increased on Guam on January 1 by $1 to $8.25, he only expects some impact to certain industries particularly the service sector.

And with the rest of the year remaining optimistic, Hiles offers this advice to job seekers out there. "Since there's more people looking than there is jobs available to increase your individual chances. Keep looking, use your network of a variety of techniques, the American jobs center, the Internet, friends and relatives are a good network. Increase your skills, additional education training is always helpful," he recommended.
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