Hawai'i jobless rate edges up
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dan Nakaso
Hawai'i's seasonally adjusted unemployment for April rose to 2.8 percent, but still was the lowest in the nation for the 24th straight month.
The state has seen unemployment inch up steadily from a 15-year-record low in January of 2.4 percent, to 2.5 percent in February and 2.6 percent in March, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported yesterday. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April remained unchanged at 4.7 percent.
Hawai'i's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has remained below 3 percent since January 2005. The recent string of increases "could be taken as some indications of a slowing economy, but not terribly slow," said Leroy Laney, a Hawai'i Pacific University professor of economics and finance. "We still have a very tight labor market and an unemployment rate that's still the lowest in the country. So with variations of a one-tenth of a point or two-tenths of a point, I wouldn't be too concerned.
"But we are seeing signs of some slowing in the economy. The housing market seems to be cooling some, which is a big driver here, bigger than a lot of other places."
Rising interest and mortgage rates could also help slow the pace of Hawai'i's economy, causing some concerns that the red-hot construction industry could follow, Laney said.
"Construction and tourism are still strong," Laney said, "and we've still got a healthy economy. But we are seeing some signs of leveling off."
With a total work force of 645,600, April's unemployment rate meant that only 18,050 people did not have jobs. The education and health services sector gained 300 jobs. The construction industry lost 300 jobs.
Beth Busch, the executive director of the WorkForce Job Fair, the largest such fair in the Islands, still sees plenty of employers looking to fill openings.
Last year, the job fair had 186 recruiters. Yesterday, Busch had 201 signed up and expected even more by Wednesday, when the fair will be held at the Neal Blaisdell Center.
"It tells me that as far as Hawai'i employers looking for workers, we're still running strong," Busch said. "I see no slowing."
Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com.