Thursday, May 27, 1999

Hawaii jobless rate
slips to 5.5%

By Rob Perez


Hawaii's unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent in April, providing what one economist said was another indication the economy was rebounding.

Art But separate job count numbers suggest Hawaii is continuing to lose jobs.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported yesterday that 565,600 people were employed last month, while 33,000 were jobless. The 5.5 percent rate compares with 5.7 percent in March and 6.1 percent in April 1998.

The U.S. unemployment rate for April was 4.1 percent. That number, like the state figures, was unadjusted for seasonal factors.

The Hawaii rate was based on Census Bureau surveys of 500 to 600 households.

While the decline suggests an improving employment picture, the job count survey, based on payroll data from about 1,500 businesses, portrays a worsening market. That survey showed Hawaii losing 1,000 jobs -- to 530,400 -- between March and April. A year ago the count stood at 531,800.

Hawaii has lost jobs each of the past six years, and the numbers for the first four months of 1999 show a continuing decline.

But Bank of Hawaii chief economist Paul Brewbaker said the payroll survey excludes self-employed people and misses a lot of the growth in small and emerging businesses, giving a bleaker job picture than what is actually the case.

Although various measures give conflicting signals about Hawaii's economy, an increasing number of the measurements suggest the state is in the midst of a mild recovery, Brewbaker said.

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