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Amid rampant unemployment, some Hawaii employers on hiring binge

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  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM Scott Sutton, company regional manager, stands outside the Longs store at Ala Moana Center.


    Scott Sutton, company regional manager, stands outside the Longs store at Ala Moana Center.

Unemployment in Hawaii is through the roof due to the new coronavirus, yet some companies are in major hiring mode.

On Thursday, CVS Health announced an effort to hire 300 to 550 workers at its Longs Drugs stores statewide.

That call was followed by the local fast-food franchisee of Popeyes saying it needs more than 100 new employees.

Emy Yamauchi-Wong, a manager at employment services firm Altres, said certain job sectors — the medical industry, insurance, construction and others — have growing staff needs as businesses in tourism and other industries suffer.

“There isn’t all doom and gloom out there,” she said. “There are still business and companies hiring.”

Yamauchi-Wong said in some cases companies have had to adopt new practices that require extra workers, such as food delivery. Another factor has been hiring to replace workers who don’t feel safe doing their jobs due to COVID-19 risks, she added.

CVS said it is seeking to hire more than twice as many workers as it typically would in advance of Hawaii’s flu season, which tends to get going in the next few months.

“We typically hire additional colleagues for the fall flu season,” Scott Sutton, CVS regional director in Hawaii, said in a statement. “However, with the projected surge in demand for flu shots and the ongoing prevalence of COVID-19 in the community, we are estimating an even higher level of need for team members.”

Monica Prinzing, a CVS spokeswoman, said the company also is providing more service in connection with combating the coronavirus, including two COVID-19 testing sites on Oahu.

“As an essential business with essential workers, our demand continues to grow in the communities we serve,” she said.

CVS anticipates hiring about 100 to 150 people in the next 30 days and an additional 200 to 400 in the coming months.

To speed hiring, CVS said it plans to host virtual interviews. Applications can be submitted online at

Available CVS jobs are full- and part-time permanent positions, as opposed to seasonal positions, and include management roles, pharmacy technicians and store associates. The company has 71 locations statewide with 2,200 workers.

At Popeyes the company was in a hiring mode before the pandemic and needs more full- and part-time staff largely as part of an effort to reduce wait times for delivery and drive-thru orders.

“We’re always looking for enthusiastic and hardworking people, and we need them now more than ever,” Sean Uezu, president of Popeyes Hawaii, said in a statement.

The company has six stores on Oahu and more than 200 employees.

Popeyes Hawaii is accepting applications in person at stores or at

According to, a web portal for jobs and training recently established by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, CVS is one of the top 10 companies seeking workers. The others are Doordash, Kaiser Permanente, Hawaii Pacific Health, Pizza Hut, Walmart, Bayada Home Health Care, the state, the Navy and the Army National Guard.

The website said 17,667 available Hawaii jobs were posted Thursday.

Meanwhile, unemployment rolls far outstrip available jobs, and more job losses appear to be on the horizon.

This week Hawaiian Airlines, which has about 7,500 employees, said it may have to furlough more than 2,000 workers.

Also, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday ordered Oahu bars to close for three weeks beginning today.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported Thursday that 173,441 valid unemployment claims have been filed in Hawaii since March.

The agency has 12,336 claims pending and has paid $2.5 billion in state and federal benefits on 161,105 claims.

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