The sluggish recovery in Hawaii’s labor market picked up speed in April with the unemployment rate falling to 6.1 percent, the lowest level in more than two years.
The improvement came after four straight months in which the jobless rate was stuck at 6.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to a report issued yesterday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. April’s unemployment rate was the lowest since January 2009, when it was 6 percent.
The report also showed that Hawaii fared better than the nation as a whole, which experienced an increase in the average unemployment rate to 9 percent in April from 8.8 percent in March.
The number of employed rose to 596,900 in April, an increase of 2,900 from March, according to the report. At the same time the number of those who were unemployed fell by 1,400 to 38,500.
The labor force data are derived from a telephone survey of households conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A separate BLS survey of businesses in Hawaii showed that there was a net reduction of 300 payroll jobs in April from March. Despite the decline through the first four months of the year, job growth is running well above last year’s pace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a result, Hawaii’s job market is expected to expand in 2011 for the first time in four years, BLS data show.
The BLS surveys of households and businesses sometimes give conflicting views of the job market from month to month, but over time they generally show a similar trend.
The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization predicts payroll jobs will increase by 1.6 percent this year. UHERO forecasts Hawaii’s jobless rate to average 6 percent in 2011, down from 6.6 percent in 2010 and 6.8 percent in 2009.
Despite the overall improvement in the job market, there are specific industries, construction in particular, that continue to struggle. While the number of construction jobs increased by 400 in April from March, the industry is in the midst of a three-year decline, having lost more than 10,000 jobs since 2007. Construction jobs peaked that year when the industry employed about 39,100 workers a month.
That could change this year, in large part because of hiring associated with the rail project on Oahu, UHERO reported. The organization forecasts a 3.7 percent increase in construction jobs this year, with job growth focused on Oahu.
"Looking forward, the industry fortunes will differ considerably between Honolulu and the other three counties," researchers wrote in the report, released yesterday.
"The beginnings of mass transit work will support an acceleration of construction job growth on Oahu over the next few years. While neighbor island construction will also begin to turn around, conditions will not warrant a rapid upturn in either residential or commercial construction."
On a county-by-county basis, Honolulu County’s 4.6 percent jobless rate in April was the lowest in the state, the state Labor Department reported. Elsewhere, the rates were 7.1 percent in Maui County, 7.7 percent in Kauai County and 8.9 percent in Hawaii County. The county data are not adjusted for seasonal variations.
Besides the increase in construction jobs in April, the state reported an additional 400 jobs added in government, 200 in professional and business services and 100 in financial services.
Leisure and hospitality lost 1,300 jobs, in part because of the temporary closing of the Kona Village Resort and the Four Seasons Hualalai on Hawaii island that were damaged by the March 11 tsunami, the state reported. Trade, transportation and utilities lost another 700 jobs, according to the report.