Jobless rate edges upward
By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i's latest unemployment report shows joblessness nudged upward slightly in December, but also included a little hopeful news on jobs.
The report released yesterday shows the state's unemployment rate rose to 6.9 percent in December, or 0.1 percentage point more than November's revised rate of 6.8 percent.
But the report also included news that the number of people employed rose from November, when the number of jobs in the state hit a more than five-year low.
"The good news here is the small increase," said Labor Economist Lawrence "Bill" Boyd, noting there was a 1,200-person increase in the number of employed people between November and December.
In November there was a decline of 6,000 non-farm jobs as the total number of people employed sank to 584,900, with the state and Maui Land & Pineapple Co. letting go of workers. That was the lowest level as measured by the federal survey of employers since August 2004.
Boyd said it was encouraging to see the number not decline again and that the increase to 586,100 could mark a glimmer of hope about the economy. He said the jobs number should be looked at along with the jobless rate to get a full picture of what was happening with employment in Hawai'i.
Hawai'i's unemployment rate has been in the high 6 percent to low 7 percent range in 2009 as an economic downturn took its toll on employment and consumer spending. December's rate was 1.8 percentage points higher than December 2008.
But while higher than a year earlier, Hawai'i continues to have one of the nation's lower unemployment rates. The state's December number compared to an average of 10 percent unemployment nationally. Hawai'i tied with Vermont and Virginia in having the ninth-lowest rate in the country.
Other figures released yesterday show:
• Honolulu continues to have the lowest unemployment rate among the state's counties. In December the rate was 5.3 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.
• Maui island and Lāna'i both possessed 8.7 percent unemployment during the month.
• Kaua'i's rate of 8.9 percent held steady from November.
• Nearly one out of every 10 workers on the Big Island was without a job in December as unemployment came in at 9.6 percent.
• Moloka'i continued to have the highest unemployment at 11.9 percent.
The unemployment report shows there were 44,300 unemployed people in the state during November. Boyd said the number of people without jobs is actually higher because some people have become discouraged about their job searches and have stopped searching for work.
He said some of those people will re-enter the labor force as the economy improves. Boyd said that will have the effect of pushing up the unemployment rate even though more people will have jobs.