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Unemployment rate falls to lowest level since ’08

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    Job seekers filled the aisles April 2 at the Hawaii Career Expo, hosted by the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser, and Alternative Energy, at the Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall.

Hawaii’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in March, the lowest level in more than five years, the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported Thursday.

The March jobless rate, which declined from 4.6 percent in February, has been below 5 percent for more than a year. Hawaii’s unemployment rate peaked at 7.1 percent in the summer of 2009 during the last recession, and had been trending downward since then.

The last time Hawaii’s unemployment rate was lower than 4.5 percent was in August 2008, when it was 4.4 percent.

The state’s labor force, which includes those who are employed and others who are unemployed but actively seeking work, rose to a record 658,450 in March, according to the report.

Nationally the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in March, unchanged from February.

The state and national numbers are adjusted for seasonal factors, such as retailers hiring temporary sales staff for the holiday shopping season. County jobs data are not seasonally adjusted.

The report showed that the unemployment rate fell across all counties in March from February. It fell to 4.0 percent from 4.1 percent in Honolulu County, to 5.9 percent from 6.1 percent in Hawaii County, to 5.3 percent from 5.6 percent in Kauai County and to 4.9 percent from 5.1 percent in Maui County.

The unemployment rate is derived largely from a monthly telephone survey of households.

A separate survey of businesses showed that the number of payroll jobs in Hawaii rose by a net 600 in March from February. The increase was led by job gains of 900 in leisure and hospitality and 600 in professional and business services.

The increases were partly offset by job declines of 200 in construction and 100 in manufacturing.

Compared with March 2013, the number of payroll jobs increased by 5,200, according to the report. The biggest increase on a year-over-year basis was in leisure and hospitality, which gained 2,300 jobs. State government jobs rose by 1,800, while education and health services added 600 positions.

A broader measure of unemployment reported by the DLIR that includes discouraged workers and part-time workers who would like to be in full-time jobs is more than double the official unemployment rate. Called the U-6 rate, it was 11.5 percent in Hawaii in 2013, the most recent period for which the data are available, according to the DLIR reported.

Nationally the U-6 rate was 14.5 percent during the same period.

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