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Hawaii unemployment at 7.2% in September


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POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hawaii's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate inched up to 7.2 percent in September, just one-tenth of a percentage point higher than in August.

Employers shed 4,200 jobs, mostly in construction, trade, transportation and utilities, and professional and business services.

Although the rate increase was small, imminent are the layoffs of an estimated 750 state government workers to help close a budget shortfall. Also, the recent go! Mokulele joint venture resulted in 137 layoffs, including 63 Mokulele employees and 74 Shuttle America employees who helped operate Mokulele's abandoned Embraer jets.

The rate hit a more than 31-year high in May at 7.4 percent. It decreased slightly for two months, but has been rising slightly for the past two months.

For the last six months, the rate has remained 2 to 2.5 percentage points lower than the national rate, which was at 9.8 percent in September. A year ago, unemployment in the state was at 4.4 percent.

Most jobs — 900 — were lost primarily in the wholesale-retail sector, which includes electronics and appliance stores, pet stores and art dealers.

;  Some retailers, however, are hiring for the holidays. Participants in the JobQuest fair last month included Macy's, Honolulu Cookie Co. and Crazy Shirts. Martin & MacArthur, Pier 1 Imports and Target are also hiring for seasonal sales.

Victoria's Secret signed on 300 employees to open its first store here Oct. 1, numbers not yet reflected in the state's job count.

With a labor force of 647,100 in Hawaii, 600,200 people were employed in September, while 46,900 were not.

The finance and leisure sectors dropped a modest 200 jobs each. However, another 700 jobs were lost in construction, bringing the total so far this year to 5,500.

In professional and business services, there was a net loss of 500 jobs. While positions were created in environmental consulting services, more were lost in travel, temporary help and waste management services.

Oahu's non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to 6.3 percent from 6.0 percent; Maui's to 9.5 percent from 9.1 percent; and Hawaii island's to 10.8 percent from 10.3 percent.

Kauai's remained at 9.6 percent, while Molokai's slipped to 13.9 percent from 14.6 percent, and Lanai's to 11.1 percent from 11.8 percent.