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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 22, 2005

Hawai'i jobless rate remains low

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Despite positive unemployment numbers, retired aircraft mechanic Albert Orian of Sunset Beach is frustrated by the low wages — $9 or less per hour — being offered for jobs he's looked at.

Gregory Yamamoto | The Honolulu Advertiser


Hawai'i enjoyed a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.7 percent in June for the second month in a row, according to figures released yesterday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The state's 2.7 percent seasonally adjusted rate last month was the lowest in the country for the third month in a row. Hawai'i's national ranking is expected to be announced today.

June saw the number of employed people across the Islands grow to 613,250 — up 3 percent from a year ago. The 17,100 unemployed represented a 12.3 percent decline from a year ago.

The Islands' low unemployment means businesses such as California Pizza Kitchen continue to struggle to find good workers and keep the ones they have.

The restaurant chain's three O'ahu restaurants have been operating with five to 10 fewer people than what is comfortable, said Carlos Delgado, director of operations for California Pizza Kitchen for Hawai'i and Asia.

Delgado could only think of one time in the past two years when even one of the stores felt it was nearly fully staffed.

"Then the wheels fell off again," Delgado said.

With a Hawai'i unemployment rate regularly leading the nation, Delgado tells his restaurant managers not to focus on job candidates with restaurant experience. Instead, he has them look for employees at stores and other businesses who exude positive attitudes — and then recruit them.

"If we can find the person with a positive outlook who just loves to be involved with people, then we can teach them the X's and O's of what we do," Delgado said. "It's a lot more difficult to teach someone to have a personality."

Despite the positive unemployment numbers, job seekers such as 69-year-old Albert Orian of Sunset Beach continue to be frustrated by the relatively low wages being offered.

Orian, who retired after 42 years as an aircraft mechanic for Continental Airlines, is frustrated that most of the positions he's looked at offer $9 or less per hour. Orian, who has 11 children and 27 grandchildren, wants to hold out for $10 an hour.

"I've got to pay for my grandchildren and help them out," he said. "Every place I've looked, the pay is too cheap."