States jobless rate at 5.5%By Russ Lynch
Hawaii's unemployment rate improved last month, but the total job count -- a figure that economists say gives a truer picture of the condition of the economy -- was down, as it has been all year.
The statewide May unemployment rate was 5.5 percent, unchanged from April and down from 6.4 percent in May 1998, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said yesterday. The May U.S. rate was 4 percent.
There were 33,000 Hawaii residents out of work in May, out of a civilian work force of 598,950. In May 1998, there were 38,150 unemployed, in a work force of 593,400. Those numbers were gathered from household surveys that asked how many residents are working and how many are not.
However, a more detailed survey of the number of jobs, resulting from a large sampling of employers, showed a less rosy picture. Last month's job count was 532,600, down by 700 from the 533,300 total in May 1998.
Still, the unemployment survey showed improvement on all islands. Oahu's jobless rate slipped to 4.8 percent from 5.4 percent in May 1998. Unemployment on the Big Island was 8.6 percent last month, down from 10.7 percent. Kauai reported a 7.5 percent jobless rate, from 10.1 percent, and Maui reported a 5.4 percent jobless rate, from 6.8 percent. Molokai still had the highest jobless rate, 14.1 percent, but that was better from 16.4 percent a year earlier.