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Honolulu unemployment rate is among lowest nationwide

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Honolulu’s 3.8 percent unemployment rate in August put it in an elite group of cities with jobless rates below 4 percent, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Wednesday.

The August rate, down from 4.2 percent in July, tied Honolulu for the eighth-lowest jobless rate out of 347 metropolitan areas surveyed by the Labor Department. Honolulu was one of only 10 cities on the list with unemployment rates below 4 percent.

Hawaii was tied with Iowa City in August with the eighth-lowest unemployment rate among the nation’s 347 metropolitan areas:

1. Bismark, N.D. 2.4%
2. Fargo, N.D. 3%
3. Sioux Falls, S.D. 3%
4. Midland, Texas 3.2%
5. Lincoln, Neb. 3.3%
6. Burlington, Vt. 3.4%
7. Rapid City, S.D. 3.4%
8. Honolulu 3.8%
9. Iowa City, Iowa 3.8%
10. Billings, Mont. 3.9%

Honolulu, the state’s commercial hub, has led Hawaii’s economic expansion in the wake of the 2008-2009 recession. Job markets have been strengthening in other parts of the state, but not as rapidly as in Honolulu. The August unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in Maui County, 4.9 percent in Kauai County and 5.8 percent in Hawaii County.

Unlike the national and statewide figures, the metropolitan area and county unemployment data are not adjusted for seasonal changes. Hawaii’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in August. The rate was 7.3 percent nationally.

Hawaii’s unemployment rate has been falling since it peaked at 7.1 percent in the summer of 2009. It is down nearly a percentage point since the start of the year. In its latest economic forecast, issued last week, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization forecast the jobless rate to average 4.6 percent in 2013 before falling to 4 percent in 2014.

However, the report’s authors said the decline in Hawaii’s jobless rate "presents an overly positive assessment of recent labor market performance." Although there have been incremental gains in employment, a significant number of people have left the labor force altogether, contributing to the decline in the rate, they wrote.

Businesses are expected to boost hiring by 2.4 percent next year, led by a nearly 11 increase in the construction industry, according to the report.

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