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Jobless rates worsen


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POSTED: Saturday, September 19, 2009

Brandon Young, 25, is prepping for his third job fair since spring.

The recent college graduate attended Workforce, Hawaii's oldest and largest job fair, earlier this year, but left disappointed, like many of the 6,500 attendees.

He also beat the pavement at the Statehood Career Fair last month, but when he emerged was still one of the state's 46,050 unemployed workers.

“;I want to find work soon, but given the abnormal economy, I figure it could take six months to a year,”; said Young, who will distribute more resumes on Tuesday at the JobQuest Fair.

The percentage of unemployed workers in Hawaii grew to 7.2 percent in August, its second highest level since it hit a 30-year high of 7.4 percent in May, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported yesterday. The state's unemployment rate has hovered between 6.9 percent and 7.4 percent for six months, indicating possible stabilization.

However, state economists have predicted that it may rise above 8 percent in 2010.

The number of people looking for work in August nearly doubled from the previous year, but fewer jobs are being created and some expect April's 1,055 percent to 1,289 percent increase in unemployment compensation taxes will further limit hiring.

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“;Businesses are going to think twice about adding more people to their employment rolls if the cost is going to increase significantly,”; said Ben Godsey, president of finance and operations at ProService Hawaii.

Still, it could be worse, said Paul Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics.

“;Compare Hawaii's blended rate of 7.2 percent unemployment to 12.2 percent in California and 13.3 percent in Nevada and that tells you how lucky we live Hawaii,”; Brewbaker said.

It's encouraging that while parts of Hawaii's economy are still under pressure, others seem to be finding their way back, he said.

However, economic recovery is likely to be a “;long slow climb out of a hole”; and there's a risk that Hawaii could see “;an even slower response from unemployment,”; Brewbaker said.

Visitor industry declines fueled most of the non-governmental-related job losses last month, said Ryan Markham, DLIR spokesman.

Leisure and hospitality jobs fell by 1,000 as visitor arrivals and hotel occupancy continued to decline, Markham said. The related trade, transportation and utilities sector also lost 1,600 jobs, he said.

Hoteliers have tried to maintain staff, but layoffs have occurred as occupancy and hotel room rates have declined, said Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association President Murray Towill.

“;Less money is circulating and that ripples throughout the community,”; Towill said.