Isle jobless rate
improves in April

The unemployment rate is better
than the national average

By Russ Lynch

Hawaii's unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent last month, an improvement from 4.6 percent a year earlier and still substantially lower than the national average of 5.7 percent.


It is not surprising that Hawaii is doing better than the nation as a whole, said Leroy Laney, a professor of economics at Hawaii Pacific University.

The national recession is broad while Hawaii's is much narrower, Laney said.

While there was a slight uptick from March of this year in the percentage of available Hawaii workers who could not find jobs, April marked the fifth month in succession in which Hawaii's jobless rate was better than the nation's.

"The U.S. has been in recession, for one thing," Laney said. "We have, too. However, our recession did turn out to be rather spotty, rather uneven."

Tourism has been hurt but it hasn't necessarily spread into the rest of the community, he said.

Only 43,000 new jobs were added nationally in April, Laney said.

That is a very small number in a nation that is used to hundreds of thousands of jobs coming available each month. Productivity is very high, meaning fewer workers are delivering more, he said.

That is also happening in Hawaii but the latest jobless figures show Hawaii appears to be emerging from its recession this quarter, the way he and other island economists predicted, Laney said.

Hawaii had 26,300 people out of work last month from a total work force of 573,700 employed workers.

The number out of work was an improvement from 27,700 in April 2001, according to the report issued yesterday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Last month, Oahu had an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, up from 3.9 percent a year earlier.

At 5.9 percent, the Big Island's unemployment rate improved from 7.5 percent in April 2001.

At 5.4 percent, Kauai was in better shape than a year-earlier 8.1 percent.

Maui's 4.4 percent jobless rate last month was higher than the 3.8 percent level of April 2001.

Molokai's 6.6 percent unemployment rate last month was the highest in the state but way below the year-earlier level of 16.8 percent, and Lanai jumped to a 3.4 percent rate from 2.7 percent in April 2001.

About 6,700 jobs were lost in April statewide, mostly because of the spring break at public schools, which contributed largely to a drop of 5,800 jobs in the public education sector as a whole, the department said.

Private education jobs decreased by 500 jobs, while the restaurant and bar establishments declined by 400 jobs. However, there were job gains in construction (400 jobs) and transportation (300 jobs).

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