Isle jobless rate drops


POSTED: Saturday, December 19, 2009

While Hawaii's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7 percent in November, the state experienced the highest monthly percentage decrease of job losses in the nation.

The state jobless rate fell to 7 percent in November compared with 7.3 percent in October, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The October rate was revised up from 7.2 percent, last month's preliminary number.

Hawaii was one of four states that reported job losses last month. The number employed in Hawaii in nonagricultural jobs fell to 584,900 in November from 590,900 in October, reflecting a loss of 6,000 jobs in one month.

The state's jobless rate improved even though the number of nonagricultural jobs fell because the numbers come from two different surveys. The unemployment rates comes from a household survey while the job count comes from a survey of employers. The job count survey has a much larger sample than the household survey.







By county
CountyNov. '09*Oct. '09*
Big Island10.010.4


        * Numbers not seasonally adjusted



        Source: State Department of Labor



Many of the cuts came in the government (900), professional and business services (800), construction (700), and trade, transportation and utilities (700) sectors.

Hawaii's 1.0 percent decline in job loss in November from the previous month topped the U.S.., and was followed by Nevada, Maine, Mississippi and Montana.

November's unemployment numbers, as expected, reflected hundreds of state layoffs, according to Ryan Markham, spokesman for the state Department of Labor.

The situation may get worse, he said, if employers are slapped with higher unemployment insurance taxes next year, resulting in more layoffs.

But the state layoffs may have been tempered, in part, by holiday hires.

Beth Busch, president of Success Advertising Hawaii, which organizes the state's largest job fairs, says retailers hired a second round of seasonal help—more than they originally anticipated.

“;People were anticipating a drearier Christmas, and are getting a brighter one,”; said Busch.

In Honolulu County, unemployment rates dropped last month to 5.9 percent from 6 percent in October; in Hawaii County, the rate dropped to 10 percent from 10.4 percent. On Maui (including Molokai and Lanai) and Kauai counties, however, unemployment increased by 0.1 percentage points to 9.3 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively.

; Hawaii's lower unemployment rate followed a nationwide trend, in which 36 states and the District of Columbia recorded drops. Eight state registered rate increases, while six states had no rate change.

Highest unemployment rates were recorded in Michigan, at 14.7 percent, followed by Rhode Island, at 12.7 percent, and California, South Carolina, and Nevada, at 12.3 percent.

The nationwide unemployment rate in November edged down to 10 percent, 0.2 percentage points down from October.

At the top of mind for most laid-off workers in Hawaii is whether or not they will be eligible for additional extensions to their 26 weeks of unemployment insurance.

Due to federal legislation signed in November, several tiers of unemployment benefits extensions are available.

Tier I offers an additional 20 weeks of unemployment pay. Tier II and III add 14 more weeks and 13 more weeks respectively, which Hawaii qualified for due to an unemployment rate of more than 6 percent in the first quarter of this year.

But recipients must exhaust either Tier I or Tier II benefits by Dec. 31 to be eligible for the next tier. Based on the unemployment weekly filing system, Markham said the actual cutoff date is next Saturday.

Unfortunately, the deadline leaves some unemployed workers in the lurch—just a few days short of qualifying for the extension.