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Waipahu hit hard by joblessness, stats show

  • Video by Craig T. Kojima / ckojima@staradvertiser.comv

    Oahu motorists lined up on H-1 East hours before the start of Wednesday's "Food for Hawaii's Ohana" food distribution event at Aloha Stadium.

  • COURTESY PHOTO
                                Philip Garboden

    COURTESY PHOTO

    Philip Garboden

The dislocation of Hawaii’s workforce amid the coronavirus pandemic has been widespread, though new data show Waipahu followed by Lahaina have been hit the hardest.

A breakdown of nearly 150,000 initial unemployment claims by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations also shows that four of the 10 ZIP codes with the highest number of claims in the tally are on Maui.

The data, which include only a portion of all initial unemployment claims filed since mid-March, when many businesses were forced to cease or constrict operations to combat the spread of COVID-19, indicate where people who filed claims live.

But without contrasting the population of each area with the number of claims, it’s not possible to identify parts of the state that have been disproportionately affected by job losses.

“The highest number (of claims) may not reflect the most severe impact,” said Philip Garboden, a professor at the University of Hawaii Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

It naturally follows that some of the bigger population centers in the state would have more claims.

Also, it makes sense that places with bigger draws for tourism — Hawaii’s main economic driver, which has been near completely sidelined over the last two months — would have more unemployment claims.

For instance, Hawaii island typically had more unemployment claims than Maui this year before pandemic-related job losses. But since the crisis emerged, the reverse has been true and is not surprising because Maui attracts more tourists than Hawaii island.

The data in many cases also may reflect where more of Hawaii’s service industry workforce lives, given that this employment sector including hotels, restaurants and retailers has borne the brunt of job losses.

A total of 149,435 initial unemployment claims were in the DLIR data set, which state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19, shared with colleagues Tuesday.

From the beginning of March through Monday, 238,051 initial unemployment claims have been filed statewide.

Of all these claims, about 169,874 or 71% have been processed as DLIR continues to work out jams in an overwhelmed system.

Of the 149,435 claims broken down by where a filer resides by island, 89,525 were on Oahu followed by 28,534 on Maui, 19,123 on Hawaii island and 11,809 on Kauai.

There also were 330 claims on Molokai and 114 on Lanai.

By ZIP code, Lahaina, Kihei, Kahului and Wailuku were among areas with the 10 highest claim counts.

Lahaina had 7,233 claims and was second to Waipahu with 7,960 claims.

The other five areas in the top 10 were all on Oahu — Ewa Beach, Waikiki, an area including Kapalama and Nuuanu, an area including Kalihi and Moanalua, and an area including Kaimuki and Palolo.

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