Hawaii’s unemployment rate improved dramatically to 13.9% in June even as the state grapples with a tourism lockdown that has kept tens of thousands of people out of work due to the pandemic.
The seasonally adjusted rate was significantly better than the revised 23.5% rate in May and the all-time high in April of 23.8%, which appears likely to stand as the peak as the local economy gradually reopens.
“It’s a big improvement,” said Eugene Tian, chief economist for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. “It indicates that the economy is improving. This is June data, so this is the result of the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) with more businesses opening. The employment number (which rose to 527,600 from 479,600 in May) has actually increased by more than 10%, so the economy is recovering and improving.”
Tian said with more businesses reopening and the 14-day quarantine for trans- Pacific travelers due to end on Sept. 1 that the unemployment rate should go below double digits by the end of the year.
“I think it will be single digits because now you’re without tourism,” he said. “When tourism opens in September, there will be more businesses open and more people hired. It will be better than today.”
The unemployment rate is following the same trend as the U.S., which saw its jobless number fall to 11.1% in June from 13.3% in the previous month. Hawaii had the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation in May behind Nevada, but current June numbers for all states won’t be released until today.
Hawaii’s labor force, which includes those who are self-employed, declined in June to 612,800 from 627,000 in May, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. But the number of people unemployed improved, with the count dropping to 85,200 from 147,350.
Nonfarm payroll jobs, which are calculated from a mail survey of employers and are typically looked at to gauge job growth, rose by 18,300 in June from May but declined 94,700 year over year. The leisure and hospitality sector showed the largest job gain from the previous month at 12,300, while the professional and business services category was next with 1,500 additional jobs.
The unemployment rate improved in the state’s four major counties in June from lofty levels in the previous month. State and national labor force data is adjusted for seasonal factors, but the county jobs data is not seasonally adjusted and thus does not take into account variations such as the winter holiday and summer vacation seasons.
Honolulu County’s jobless rate fell to 12.5% from 20.8%, Hawaii County’s rate fell to 13.7% from 22.3%, Kauai County’s rate dropped to 20.2% from 31.5% and Maui County’s rate declined to 22.6% from 34%. In Maui County, Maui’s rate fell to 23.4% from 35.1%, Molokai’s rate dropped to 9.3% from 14.2% and Lanai’s rate dropped to 3.1% from 4.7%.