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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 29, 2010

Honolulu's jobless rate 5.6%


BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Job seekers circulated at a March job fair at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Island economist Lawrence "Bill" Boyd says O'ahu has fared better than some cities because its economy is based on service industries, not manufacturing.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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It might not feel like it, but Honolulu had one of the lowest unemployment rates among cities in the nation in March.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its metropolitan area data yesterday showing Honolulu's seasonally unadjusted 5.6 percent unemployment rate was the 17th lowest out of the 372 cities it tracks.

Honolulu's showing highlights the state's relatively low unemployment compared with most other states. Labor economist Lawrence "Bill" Boyd said O'ahu has fared better because of its service industry base.

Cities with a bigger tie to manufacturing have suffered as people curbed spending during the recession, he said.

"Whenever there are problems with the economy, Honolulu's economy isn't quite so bad in terms of unemployment," Boyd said.

The lowest city rate in March was in Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, La., at 4.6 percent. The highest was in El Centro, Calif., at 27 percent.

Most of the low unemployment cities were found in the Midwest with Honolulu's rate being duplicated by Amarillo, Texas, Rapid City, S.D., and Manhattan, Kan.

Nationally the seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was 10.2 percent in March, with 164 metropolitan areas reporting jobless levels of 10 percent or more.

Honolulu was among the 46 cities where unemployment was below 7 percent.

Boyd said construction has been hurt during the economic downturn here, but the largest base of manufacturing in the state shipyard work at Pearl Harbor has remained steady.

Boyd said that people may believe Honolulu is worse off economically than its unemployment reading shows because some people may still be counted as fully employed even if they've had hours cut or have lost a part-time job while retaining a full-time position.