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Hawaii’s unemployment rate inches up as economy slows

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Although Hawaii’s seasonally adjusted January unemployment rate rose to 2.7 percent it is still near historic lows.

Hawaii’s seasonally adjusted January unemployment rate rose to 2.7 percent — the highest level in nearly two years.

The rate was 0.1 percentage points higher than the prior month and 0.4 percentage points more than the year-ago January, according to unemployment rate figures released today by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

But Hawaii’s unemployment level is still near historic lows. Last April and May, Hawaii’s unemployment fell to 2 percent, the lowest jobless rate for any state on record going back to 1976.

However, Hawaii’s rate has been slowly inching back up again as evidence has mounted that economic growth in the state is slowing. But Hawaii’s rate also is still performing better than the nation as a whole. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.0 percent in January, compared to 3.9 percent in December.

Some 658,500 people were employed statewide in January — down from 677,700 last month and down even more from the 679,850 who were employed in January of 2018.

The count of unemployed people statewide rose to 18,000 in January — up from 17,650 in the prior month and up even more from January 2018 when 15,350 people reported that they were unemployed.

Hawaii’s labor force, the count of those employed and unemployed, declined to 676,500 in January 2019 from 677,700 the prior month and 679,850 the prior year.

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Over-the-month initial unemployment claims rose by nearly 23 percent and weeks claims increased by almost 3 percent. From the year-ago January, initial claims were up 0.5 percent and weekly claims decreased by more than 1 percent.

Total non-agricultural jobs decreased by 2,600 from January 2018 to January 2019. They fell 1,300 from December 2018 to January 2018.

The highest over-the-month job losses came from leisure and hospitality, a major Hawaii economic driver. Some 1,700 jobs were eliminated from this sector, mainly due to job losses at food service and drinking places.

Some 300 jobs over-the-month were lost in information services and another 300 were cut from professional and business services.

Over-the-month job gains came from the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 500 jobs; government, which expanded by 400 jobs; and financial activities, which increased by 100 jobs.

Employment remained stable in construction, education and health services, manufacturing and other services.

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