State jobless rate
dips to 4.2%

Hawaii's unemployment rate declined slightly last month, with most jobs gains in public and private education, state labor officials said yesterday.


The state's jobless rate in September was a seasonally adjusted 4.2 percent of the civilian work force, up from September a year ago, when the rate was 4 percent, but down from August's rate of 4.3 percent, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The gains in education jobs were due to the start of the school year, officials said.

"The Lingle administration is encouraged that Hawaii has consistently maintained a low unemployment rate for a considerable length of time," said Nelson Befitel, the department's director. "This is a key indicator that we are on the right track in expanding and diversifying the state economy, while creating quality jobs for our residents."

In another measure of the economy, the number of jobs in Hawaii grew by 700 from August to September, officials said. The total number of people in the labor force actually fell 5.7 percent to 602,100 last month from 607,800 in August. Despite that, it was an increase over September 2002, when Hawaii's labor force numbered 575,800.

Of those, 576,100 were employed and 26,000 unemployed, compared with 580,900 employed and 26,900 unemployed in August, and 551,900 employed and 23,800 unemployed in September of last year.

The total number of non-agriculture jobs grew to 564,100 in September from 563,400 in August, and an increase from 555,500 in September of last year.

The jobless breakdown by county was given only in non-seasonally adjusted numbers. By that gauge, Oahu's rate of unemployment last month was 4 percent, unchanged from August's rate, but up from 3.8 percent in September of last year.

Hawaii County had the highest jobless rate in the state, 5.6 percent, a drop from 6.2 percent in August. Maui County's unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent from 4.7 percent in August and Kauai's rate fell to 4.6 percent from 4.9 percent in August.

In 2001, shortly following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hawaii's unemployment rate rose to a high of 5.4 percent in November 2001. Then, Hawaii had a labor force of 596,450 with 43,400 unemployed.

The seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate in September was 6.1 percent, the same as the prior month, but a gain from 5.7 percent in September 2002.

Seasonally adjusted numbers are preferred by most economists as they remove the fluctuations caused by recurring annual events and offer a more stable measure of the jobless rate.


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