State jobless rate hits 10-year high


POSTED: Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Melissa Chang lost her job as marketing manager for Aloha Tower Marketplace last month when the center's management changed, but she is not rushing to find a full-time job.





        Some tips for filing for unemployment benefits:

» Unemployment claims may be filed by phone at 643-5555 or toll-free at (877) 215-5793.


» The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' Unemployment Insurance Division is at 830 Punchbowl St., and on the Web at hawaii.gov/labor/ui


» DLIR job search and employer resources: http://www.hirenethawaii.com


» Department of Human Resources Development: 235 S. Beretania St., Suite 1400, 587-1100. Online: hawaii.gov/hrd



She is freelancing and cautiously looking for another employer that will be a good fit.

Chang is active on social networking Web sites including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and belongs to the Public Relations Society of America's Hawaii Chapter, which has an online job bank.

“;People have been very supportive and I get leads here and there,”; she said.

Chang is hardly alone in her predicament.

She is one of 36,450 people in Hawaii who found themselves unemployed in December as the state's jobless rate soared to a 10-year high of 5.5 percent, matching the level it was at in December 1998.

It's not the first time Chang has been unemployed. She lost her job at Coldwell Banker in 2004 and a severance package helped keep her afloat for the four months she was without work. She was hired at Aloha Tower in February 2005 but did not receive severance when her job ended.

“;I've saved enough money over the last few years, just in case, because you never know, right?”; she said.

Hawaii's unemployment picture has worsened considerably in the last year when it was at 3.1 percent in December 2007, according to data released yesterday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The 36,450 people unemployed last month represented a 10.6 percent increase over November and an 83.2 percent increase over December 2007.

This will be a year of stabilization, according to Bank of Hawaii chief economist Paul Brewbaker.

In a speech to the Association of Information Technology Professionals Hawaii Chapter this month, he projected negative growth and additional bad news during the first half of this year, but said some of the volatility has begun to subside.

Some volatility continues, however. National unemployment rose to 7.2 percent in December from a revised 6.8 percent in November.

Honolulu's Jesse Shain, who earlier this month lost his first post-college job selling broadcast advertising, is optimistic he will land a new job in the next couple of weeks.

Shain has not been unemployed before.

He received six months' severance, helping him avoid the nail-biting anxiety of wondering where his next meal will come from or how he will pay his rent.

At the unemployment office, he was encouraged to upload his resume to the Labor Department's Web site for job seekers and employers.

He did that yesterday during the hour and a half he spent online looking for jobs.

“;I'm just trying to look at it as an opportunity to open the next chapter of my life,”; Shain said.

First-time claims for jobless benefits continue to stream in to the Labor Department at the rate of about 2,000 a week, said Labor Department spokesman Ryan Markham.

Some of those are for partial unemployment benefits, which help workers whose hours have been reduced.

Reducing hours is one way employers can cut costs while also avoiding the cost of recruiting and training new workers once the economy improves.

“;We're trying to be creative”; in counseling employers, Markham said.

In December, total seasonally adjusted nonagricultural jobs decreased by 7,700 to 612,600 from November, the state reported.

Hawaii's government sector posted the largest losses, at 4,900, mostly due to the state's release of temporary hires for the election.

The trade, transportation and utilities group lost the most private-sector jobs, at 1,100. Retailers shed 400 jobs.

Some 900 construction jobs were lost in December, in residential building as well as among site-preparation and finishing contractors. Some of the reduction was due to project completion and fewer new contract activities, the Labor Department said.

The tourism sector reported the only growth, following three consecutive months of decline. Accommodation and food services jobs increased by 200, largely due to the reopening of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island.

Around the state, Molokai had the highest unemployment, at 11.6 percent, though that was down from 13.1 in November. Kauai logged a 7.7 percent jobless rate; the Big Island, 7.1; Maui, 6.5; and Lanai, 6.2, while Oahu's unemployment rate stood at 4.2. All the island numbers are not seasonally adjusted.