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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 22, 2006

Hawai'i jobless rate up slightly to 2.3 percent

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

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Hawai'i's unemployment rate increased slightly to 2.3 percent last month on a drop in retail trade and transportation jobs, the state reported yesterday.

That was up from October's seasonally adjusted 2.1 percent rate, and it marked the fourth straight month the state has posted a jobless rate below 3 percent, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said. In comparison, the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 4.5 percent in November compared with 4.4 percent in October. The jobs data are adjusted to compensate for seasonal factors, such as holidays, that could skew year-over-year comparisons.

Hawai'i's economy remains robust, propelled by sectors such as tourism and real estate. However, state economic growth is expected to slow next year as construction and tourism ease off their record-setting pace of the past few years.

Other factors expected to weigh on Hawai'i's economy during the next two years include high inflation, which is forecast to rise this year, led by rising housing and energy costs.

The jobless rate is forecast to remain at 3 percent or lower during the next few years, according to local economists. Among Hawai'i's job sectors, agricultural job losses next year are expected to be significant because of the closure of Del Monte's Hawai'i operations. The pineapple producer is eliminating 551 jobs in January.

In a separate measure of employment, the number of non-agricultural jobs rose by 4,400 in November to 625,700. Year over year, the total job count rose by 15,900, or 2.6 percent, with the largest gains coming in government, trade, transportation and utilities, and leisure and hospitality.

"Hawai'i's economic prosperity is due in no small part to the job growth and low unemployment we have sustained over a substantial period of time," said Nelson Befitel, director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

On a nonseasonally adjusted basis, the Big Island's jobless rate in November fell to 2.6 percent, versus 3.1 percent last year; Honolulu's rate fell to 2.2 percent, compared with 2.7 percent a year ago; Maui County recorded 2.2 percent, down from 2.7 percent a year earlier; and Kaua'i's rate fell to 2.1 percent from 2.6 percent a year ago.

In November, Hawai'i's seasonally adjusted labor force totaled 660,800, which included 14,900 unemployed people, according to the state.

Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.