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Thursday, January 25, 2001

Hawaii jobless rate
hits 9-year low

Seasonal hirings in December
helped unemployment
fall to 3.6 percent

By Rob Perez

The state's unemployment rate declined last month to the lowest level in nine years as many employers hired workers for seasonal jobs, according to state figures.

Art The December jobless rate was 3.6 percent, compared with 3.7 percent the previous month and 4.4 percent in December 1999, the Department of Labor & Industrial Relations said yesterday.

Last month's seasonally unadjusted total was the lowest since 3.5 percent of Hawaii's labor force was jobless in January 1992, a department spokesman said. The U.S. unemployment rate for December was 3.7 percent on a seasonally unadjusted basis. Although Hawaii's jobless rate fell slightly from November, the number of people employed actually dropped.

Some 578,300 people held jobs last month, compared with a record 579,100 in November. Only 21,900 people were unemployed, the lowest level in nine years.

Last month's numbers capped what was a good year for Hawaii's labor force.

The jobless rate never rose above 4.9 percent and for the last three months was below 4 percent. Economists view the improvements as more signs that Hawaii's economy was back on track after nearly a decade of little or no growth. The department said job gains in December were recorded in many industries, though the gains were primarily seasonal.

The retail trade sector added 1,500 jobs, while government jobs increased by 1,700 during the month. Hotel jobs were up 400, health and business services each gained 300, and engineering, accounting and management services collectively accounted for 200 more jobs. The construction, manufacturing and finance, insurance and real estate industries remained relatively unchanged, the department said.

All islands recorded a jobless rate improvement last month compared with December 1999. The island-by-island unemployment rate breakdown for last month vs. a year earlier was:

Bullet Oahu, 3.2 percent, down from 3.9 percent in December 1999.

Bullet Big Island, 5.5 percent from 6.0 percent.

Bullet Kauai, 6.8 percent, from 7.3 percent.

Bullet Maui, 3.2 percent, from 4.0 percent.

Bullet Molokai, 7.2 percent, from 11.3 percent

Bullet Lanai, 4.3 percent, from 5.8 percent.

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