Thursday, August 23, 2001

Jobless rate in
Hawaii rises
to 4.8%

The highest level in 18 months
comes despite a 1.6% gain
in work payrolls

By Russ Lynch

Hawaii's unemployment rate in July rose to 4.8 percent, the highest level of any month since the 4.9 percent average of January 2000. State figures show 29,250 people listed as out of work, an increase of 3,100 from a year earlier.

Jobless rate graph Art On the plus side, however, the number of people saying they were employed in July was up by much more, an increase of 9,000, or 1.6 percent, for a July total of 583,450 people at work, compared to a year-earlier 574,450.

"The jobs situation is pretty stable, actually," said state economist Pearl Imada Iboshi, head of research in the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

And the separate job count figure, reported by employers, showed a year-over-year increase of 1,850 jobs, to a July total of 552,500, from 550,650 in July 2000.

Economists say the job count is more important than the unemployment percentage because of the way the figures are calculated. The jobless percentage comes from a house-to-house survey asking who is working and who is not, while the job count is from a much wider and more formal state-required survey of employers.

The job count is a better indicator of the condition of the economy, economists say. When people are working, things aren't all that bad.

The population available for work increased by more than the number of jobs. The work force rose 2 percent to 612,700 last month from 600,600 in July 2000, helping to explain the higher unemployment percentage.

State Labor Department officials said Hawaii's jobless rate has been running very close to the national average for several months. The U.S. average last month was 4.7 percent.

The Hawaii figures are still well below the levels of the second half of the 1990s, when statewide averages approaching 7 percent were common.

Last month, almost all islands showed a year-over-year increase in the jobless level. The sole exception, while still the state's hardest hit, was Molokai with a July jobless rate of 13.2 percent, down from 17.5 percent in July 2000.

Oahu's rate, 4.1 percent, was up from a year-earlier 3.7 percent. At 8 percent, the Big Island's rate was up from a year-earlier 7.6 percent. Kauai was at 7.2 percent last month, up from a year-earlier 6.5 percent. At 4.2 percent, Maui was up from 3.5 percent and Lanai's 2.7 percent jobless rate was an increase from 2.3 percent in July 2000.

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