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State jobless rate remains at 6.3%

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Hawaii’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent in February for the third consecutive month as the state’s lackluster economic recovery failed to spur any significant job growth, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported yesterday.

The jobless rate has inched downward since peaking at 7 percent in mid-2009, when recession-weary businesses were laying off workers to cut costs. Hawaii’s unemployment rate was as low as 2.3 percent in 2006 before the recession hit. Nationally the unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in February from 9 percent in January.

The recession officially ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

However, job growth often lags during an economic recovery because businesses that cut payrolls during slow times are reluctant to refill those positions until they are assured that the economic growth is solid.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization is forecasting the state unemployment rate to average 6 percent this year and 5.3 percent in 2012.

The unemployment rate is derived from a telephone survey of Hawaii households conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A separate BLS survey of businesses showed that the number of nonagricultural jobs in Hawaii was unchanged at 595,700 in February.

The professional and businesses serv­ices sector gained 1,000 jobs, according to the DLIR report. Three other categories — leisure and hospitality, financial activities and other serv­ices — each added 100 jobs.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector lost 800 positions, while job losses in the construction industry totaled 100.

The state unemployment rate is adjusted for seasonal variations, like extra hiring by retailers for the holidays. Rates for individual counties are reported on an unadjusted basis. Honolulu had the lowest jobless rate at 5.2 percent, followed by Maui County at 7.9 percent, Kauai County at 8.5 percent and Hawaii County at 9.4 percent.

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