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Isle jobless rate dips

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    The state unemployment rate dropped to 4.0 percent in June.
    Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hawaii’s unemployment rate, which had been stuck at the same level for seven of the last eight months, finally dropped a notch in June.

The state’s seasonally adjusted jobless number dipped to 4.0 percent in June, matching its recent bottom in December and recording its lowest level of the year, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The last time the jobless rate dipped below 4.0 percent was in May 2008 when it hit 3.8 percent.

Hawaii’s jobless rate had held steady at 4.1 percent every month this year.

Nationally the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in June, down from 5.5 percent in May.

Local economist Jack Suyderhoud said there’s not much difference between 4.0 and 4.1 percent because it falls within the range of sampling error and is the same overall level. However, he said that level tells him that Hawaii has a “pretty good labor market at the present time.”

“You can see that anecdotally,” Suyderhoud said. “People are putting up signs saying, ‘Hiring’ or ‘Job opening here,’ etc. That’s the overall good news in the economy. The issue is always the kinds of jobs we are creating. Are they matching the skills that people have, because there’s also a lot of underemployment going on. People are working in jobs they’re not necessarily trained for or require less skills than they have. They’re overqualified for the jobs in some cases.”

Hawaii had the 11th-lowest rate in the nation, according to U.S. data. Hawaii’s lowest rate in recent history was 2.3 percent in October, November and December 2006. The state’s recent peak for unemployment was 7.1 percent in July and August 2009 following the recession.

Suyerhoud said even though Hawaii’s jobless rate hasn’t moved much in recent months, it’s important to note that it remains low.

“All things being equal, 4 percent is a lot better than 8 percent,” Suyderhoud said. “I’m stating the obvious, but sometimes we need to be reminded.”

Hawaii’s labor force, which includes those who are employed and those who are unemployed but actively seeking work, fell to 675,700 in June from 676,250 in May but was up from 668,350 in June 2014.

There were 648,850 employed last month versus 648,800 in May, while those unemployed declined to 26,850 from 27,500 over the same period.

Fewer people also are filing for unemployment. Over the last year, initial unemployment claims have dropped 21.3 percent, or by 373 claims.

Last month, the number of nonfarm payroll jobs rose to 633,600 from 632,900 in May and from 624,000 in June 2014. The largest job increases in June over the previous month were in construction (1,200), leisure and hospitality (500) and educational and health services (400). Government employment went up by 600 jobs.

Hawaii’s unemployment rate is derived largely from a monthly telephone survey of households, while a separate survey of businesses determines the number of nonfarm jobs. The nonfarm payroll jobs figure includes people who might hold multiple jobs but doesn’t include people who are self-employed.

The unemployment rate increased in all counties last month from May. State and national labor force data are adjusted for seasonal factors, but the county jobs data are not seasonally adjusted and thus do not take into account variations such as the winter holiday and the summer vacation seasons.

The rate decreased in Hono­lulu County to 4.1 from 3.7 percent; in Hawaii County to 5.5 from 4.8 percent; in Kauai County to 4.8 from 4.4 percent; and in Maui County to 4.4 from 3.9 percent.

Within Maui County, Maui island’s jobless rate rose to 4.2 from 3.8 percent, Molokai’s rate rose to 11 from 8.9 percent and Lanai’s rate declined to 2.5 from 2.6 percent.

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