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More isle workers earning less pay

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 3:36 a.m. HST, Sep 29, 2010

U.S. Census data released yesterday detail Hawaii's slog through a continuing recession in 2009, showing rising unemployment, fewer commuters and more people earning lower wages.

The jobless rate increased last year to 7.1 percent from 2008's 4 percent. As of last month Hawaii's unemployment rate is at 6.4 percent. The national jobless rate is at 9.6 percent.

There were also more workers settling to earn less than last year. The number of households earning less than $50,000 a year increased to 39.4 percent from 36.3 percent in 2008.

In contrast, the number of households earning more than $50,000 dropped to 60.7 percent, from 63.9 percent in 2008.

The median household income also dropped, to $64,098 from $67,384 in 2008. But Hawaii has the fifth-highest median household income in the nation, beat only by Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland.


The U.S. Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey includes economic data for the islands.

Unemployment (in civilian labor force)
» 2009: 7.1 percent
» 2008: 4 percent

Commuting to work
» 2009: 638,154
» 2008: 654,477

Household income less than $50,000 a year
» 2009: 39.4 percent
» 2008: 36.3 percent

Household income more than $50,000 a year
» 2009: 60.7 percent
» 2008: 63.9 percent

People below poverty level
» 2009: 10.4 percent
» 2008: 9.2 percent

"Hawaii's median rent of $1,293 in 2009 placed Hawaii as the No. 1 in the nation," said Eugene Tian, acting administrator of the Research and Economic Analysis Division of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. "The U.S. median rent was $842 per month."

Tian said Hawaii's homeowner's monthly housing cost of $2,282 in 2009 was the third highest in the nation.

"Our state also ranked high for proportion of income spent on housing," he said.

About 49 percent of mortgaged owners spend more than 30 percent of the household income on the mortgage. Only California has more mortgage homeowners -- 52.2 percent -- spending more than 30 percent. Florida tied with Hawaii.

Hawaii also had the highest value of real property. The median housing value was $517,600 in 2009, with Washington, D.C., trailing at $443,700.

The number of people below the poverty level increased by 1.2 percentage points from 2008. Despite that, Hawaii was 44th in the nation for people below the poverty level.

The data also showed that about 16,000 fewer people were commuting to work. But Hawaii topped the list in the percentage of workers using a car pool to go to work. In 2009, 14 percent carpooled; in 2008, 16.2 percent did.

The annual survey covers Oahu, Hawaii island and Maui. With an estimated population of 65,000, Kauai is not included in the survey, but is in the three-year and five-year data that will be released in the coming months.

Other findings:

» The state's total population increased to 1,295,178 million people from 1,288,198 in 2008.

On the Net:

» American Community Survey:

» Hawaii ranked the highest for percentage of households with multiple generations, with 7.4 percent.

» Hawaii ranked second in the nation in the percentage of workers -- 23 percent -- in the service industry.

» Hawaii's homeownership of 56.7 percent last year was the fourth worst in the nation. Washington, D.C., had the lowest ownership at 44.8 percent, with New York at 55 percent and California at 56.6 percent.

» About 8.5 percent of Hawaii's housing units have more than one person living per room, the highest rate in the nation. The national rate is 3.2 percent.

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