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State jobless rate remained at 2.7% in February

Hawaii’s gradually rising unemployment rate paused in February amid a slowing growth trend that local economists have been forecasting for the state.

The seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent jobless rate last month matched the January number, which was the highest level since February 2017, according to data released today by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

“The labor market conditions in February are as expected,” said Eugene Tian, chief economist for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. “DBEDT forecasted an average annual unemployment rate of 2.7 percent for 2019 in our March 6 release. The unemployment rate will be going up this year and the next few years. We did expect job growth will be slowing down as well.”

Tian said despite Hawaii’s rising unemployment rate that the economy is still healthy. Tourism added the most nonfarm payroll jobs last month of any sector with 1,400 of the overall 1,800 job gains occurring primarily in accommodations and food services.

“With the starting of the Southwest Airlines flights to Hawaii, tourism will be still the driving force for our economy this year,” Tian said.

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