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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

State’s jobless rate stays lowest in U.S.

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 2.5 percent for February once again led the country, for the 22nd straight month.

No other state had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate below 3 percent in February. The national unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent.

Hawai'i's February rate was up slightly from January's 2.4 percent, which was a 15-year record low. February's unemployment rate meant 630,350 people had jobs while 16,240 remained unemployed.

The continuing run of low unemployment means employers at all levels are having difficulty filling a wide-range of positions, from entry-level to management.

Between January 2005 and January 2006, average salaries in Honolulu jumped 5 percent to $14.10 per hour. The median salary also rose to $12 an hour, meaning half of workers earned more and half earned less.

Last year O'ahu's largest regular job fair, the WorkForce Job Fair, had 182 employers attend. Yesterday, more than 135 were already scheduled for the May 24 job fair at the Neal Blaisdell Center and organizers expect more than 200 recruiters.

Eugene Kaneshiro, human resources manager at a Kane'ohe auto dealership, has trouble getting newly hired workers to even show up on the first day.

"We've easily had six or seven recently — entry-level lot boys, receptionists, an office clerk, automotive technician — who said, 'Sorry, I got another job' — once I reached them," Kaneshiro said. "People are willing to drop an employer at a whim because they have other job offers."

Just over a year ago, Kaneshiro had been frustrated by his own, seven-month search for a management job at the age of 55.

Now, at age 56, Kaneshiro is in charge of hiring.

"It definitely has helped me be more empathetic," Kaneshiro said. "Being a little older, there was always the question in people's minds, 'Are you willing to put out a whole bunch for smaller pay?' I got that from a lot of different folks.

"But we've had people through the entire hiring process and then after we're through with their orientation say, 'Aloha. I have another job.' "

Kaneshiro also has to worry about keeping workers for some jobs that are in high demand, such as automotive technicians.

"If someone offers them a job," Kaneshiro said, "we'll counter-offer to keep them."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.