State jobless rate falls
to 5.6 percent

But Hawaii is still losing jobs,
the latest figures show

By Russ Lynch

The number of jobs in Hawaii fell to its lowest level for the year in September, according to new figures.

There were 514,700 jobs, a decline of 7,100 from 521,800 in September 1995, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said yesterday.

The unemployment rate improved to 5.6 percent, down from 6.5 percent in August and from 6.1 percent in September 1995. However, Hawaii's rate was still above the national level of 5 percent for last month.

Economists say the number of jobs is more important than the percentage of the work force that is unemployed. The unemployment rate is based on a survey of about 500 households while the job-count number comes from a much larger survey of employers.

"We've been losing jobs, of course, for four years now, which is an extraordinarily long time for any state," Leroy Laney, chief economist at First Hawaiian Bank, said today.

California's worst spell of job losses lasted 31/2 years and Hawaii has already exceeded that, Laney said.

What is significant now is the rate at which the economy is losing jobs, he said.

The rate wasn't all that high for the first few years, perhaps half a percent a year, Laney said, but last month's job count was 1.4 percent below the year-earlier level.

The construction industry had 2,600 fewer jobs last month than in September 1995. The Labor Department said construction is down, including a 300-job decline from August, because of a lack of government projects.

Jobs in the service sector last month were down by 3,700 from September 1995. In the year-to-year comparison, retailing was down by 2,000 jobs, wholesaling was down by 100 jobs.

The finance and real estate sector lost 900 jobs in 12 months. Hotels showed more jobs, an increase of 1,400 from September 1995, but lost 600 since August.

According to the department's household survey, there were 32,000 persons out of work in Hawaii last month, out of a civilian work force of 583,400. That was an improvement from 35,000 jobless a year earlier.

Among the individual islands, Oahu continued to have the lowest unemployment rate, 4.7 percent last month compared with 4.9 percent in September 1995. Rates on the other islands last month, compared with the year-earlier month, were: Lanai, 5.7 percent, up from 4.1 percent; Maui, 6 percent, down from 7.2 percent; Hawaii, 8.3 percent, down from 10.1 percent; Kauai, 9.7 percent, down from 11.2 percent; and Molokai, 16 percent, down from 16.1 percent.

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