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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jobless rate edges down in December

By Rick Daysog
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i continued to enjoy the nation's lowest unemployment rate in December as the statewide jobless rate slipped to 2.7 percent.

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported yesterday the unemployment rate fell from November's 2.8 percent and was 0.3 percentage points below December 2004's 3 percent.

"It's really a tight market out there for finding good talent," said Victor Sokabe, branch manager for Spherion Hawaii, a staffing agency. "It used to be more of an employers' market where they could pick and choose their new hires. Now employers are using more creative means to find the right hires."

Hawai'i's rate compared with the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. It was well below the 3.5 percent rate in Wyoming, which has the nation's second strongest job market.

Mississippi had the country's worst jobless rate last month at 9.9 percent.

"The 2005 numbers indicate a year of exceptional economic growth for Hawai'i," said Labor Director Nelson Befitel.

December was the 10th consecutive month in which the statewide jobless rate was under 3 percent, which many labor experts regard as the full employment rate for an economy.

According to the Labor Department, Hawai'i has added more than 48,300 new jobs since 2002 and more than 16,000 since last year.

The state's construction, manufacturing and government sectors each added 300 new jobs last month while education and health services added 200 new workers.

The number of jobs in the transportation and utilities industries declined by 100 in December and the leisure and hospitality sector also lost 100 jobs, the state said.

Reach Rick Daysog at rdaysog@honoluluadvertiser.com.