in Hawaii hit 5.4%
The rate rose from aBy Russ Lynch
year ago and remains well above
the national average
The statewide unemployment rate in December was higher than a year earlier, despite lower levels on Maui, Kauai and Molokai.
Last month's statewide jobless rate also remained much higher than the national figure, according to the state Department of Labor & Industrial Relations.
Hawaii's statewide rate of 5.4 percent was up from 5.2 percent in December 1997, the department said yesterday.
The U.S. jobless rate last month was 4 percent.
The difference between the national and state levels has grown from 0.8 percentage points in December 1997 to 1.4 points last month.
Maui's unemployment rate was 5.7 percent last month, a decrease from 5.9 percent in December 1997. Kauai had 9.1 percent rate, better than the 10.2 percent a year earlier.
Molokai's December jobless rate of 9.9 percent was a three-point improvement from 12.9 percent a year ago.
However Oahu, where most of the jobs are, showed a 4.7 percent jobless rate. While that, as usual, was the lowest in the state, it also was an increase from 4.3 percent in December 1997.
The Big Island also had a higher rate, 7.8 percent vs. 7.6 percent a year ago.
The number of jobs in Hawaii was down by 7,400 at 529,300, from 536,700 in December 1997, and the number of people employed last month was down by 6,600, at 562,100 from 568,700 in the year-earlier month.
There were 32,300 people unemployed last month, a 1,700 increase from 30,600 in December 1997.
December's jobs picture improved when compared only with the previous month thanks to seasonal retail hiring, the department reported.
The December statewide rate of 5.4 percent was an improvement from November's 5.7 percent.