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State jobless rate steady despite work-force gains

The increase in the number of employed is offset by a drop in the overall labor force

By Andrew Gomes

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More people in Hawaii had jobs in January, but not enough to change the unemployment rate from the prior month.

Hawaii's unemployment rate in January was 6.3 percent, unchanged from December, according to seasonally adjusted data released yesterday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

The rate remained well below the national average, which improved to 9 percent in January from 9.4 percent in December. The national unemployment rate further dipped to 8.9 percent in February, but estimates for Hawaii last month have yet to be compiled.

Based on figures not seasonally adjusted, Honolulu had the lowest unemployment rate among counties at 5.4 percent. The highest rate was on the Big Island at 9.3 percent. Kauai's unemployment rate was 8.5 percent. And Maui County's rate was 7.9 percent, which included the islands of Maui (7.9 percent), Molokai (12 percent) and Lanai (5.3 percent).

The statewide jobless rate in January was just more than a half-percentage-point lower than it was in January 2010, reflecting a small improvement coming out of the economic recession. The year-ago figure of 6.9 percent was just shy of a three-decade high of 7 percent.

There was a slight gain in employment in January over December, though that was balanced by a slight reduction in the overall labor force, the state data showed.

There were 590,800 people employed in January, or 100 more than in December. There were 39,650 unemployed in January compared with 40,000 in December. A difference between the gain in employment and reduction in unemployment exists because some people move, give up looking for a job or otherwise exit the labor force.

According to a survey of Hawaii employers, the number of jobs being added to the economy, including jobs that might represent a second job for some people, is growing modestly.

The employer survey conducted by the Labor Department said the number of nonfarm jobs grew by 3,700 in January over December.

By industry the biggest gain was 2,100 jobs in the trade, transportation and utility sector, which was driven by retail businesses and followed two months of declines. Tourism added 1,300 jobs and notched a seventh consecutive month of job growth as Hawaii's dominant industry continues to welcome more visitors.

Other job gains occurred in professional and business services (600), and educational and health services (100). State government added 1,500 jobs, mostly in the Department of Education as schools got back into session following a holiday break.

On the negative side, 1,000 jobs were lost in construction, and the financial services sector dropped 400 jobs.

The Labor Department uses the employer survey, unemployment claims and a telephone survey of 1,000 households to calculate the state's unemployment rate.






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