Isle jobless rate rises to 2.5%
Hawaii's unemployment rate ticked up in May to a seasonally adjusted 2.5 percent -- its fourth increase in five months -- but still remained among the lowest in the nation, and slightly below the state's May 2006 rate.
The gain from 2.4 percent in April put Hawaii in a tie for third place with Utah, whose jobless rate remained at 2.5 percent, according to data released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Montana and Idaho lead the nation with a low of 2.3 percent.
The U.S. jobless rate in May was 4.5 percent, unchanged from the previous month.
First Hawaiian Bank consultant Leroy Laney said the jobless figure in Hawaii may remain low for awhile.
"We've been low for some time now, going on three years," said Laney, a professor of economics and finance at Hawaii Pacific University. "We've got a very tight labor market, and even though the economy is slowing down some, I wouldn't be surprised to see the unemployment rate stay low for some time because unemployment tends to be a lagging indicator. If the economy continues to slow further, I would expect to see some rise in the unemployment rate."
In May 2006, the state unemployment rate was at 2.6 percent while the U.S. jobless rate was 4.6 percent.
Until the recent increases, Hawaii held the No. 1 ranking in the country for seven straight months before relinquishing that distinction in March. Hawaii hit its all-time low of 2.0 percent in December.
By county, for which the state releases only non-seasonally adjusted figures, Oahu, Maui and Kauai tied for the lowest rate in May, 2.2 percent, while the Big Island rate was 3.1 percent. By island, the lowest rate was on Maui, 2.1 percent, and the highest on Molokai, 5.5 percent.
Statewide, the number of people working in May increased by 300 to 637,800 from 637,500 in April, and the number of unemployed rose by 400 to 16,200 from 15,800. The state labor force increased by 700 to 654,000 from 653,300.