Un­em­ploy­ment rate rises to 11-month high

Con­struc­tion jobs de­cline for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive month af­ter peak­ing in May

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Dave Se­gal dse­gal@starad­ver­tiser.com

Hawaii’s un­em­ploy­ment rate rose in July to its high­est level in 11 months as con­struc­tion com­pa­nies tapped the brakes on what had been one of the state’s hottest in­dus­tries.

The state’s sea­son­ally ad­justed job­less rate inched up one-tenth of a per­cent­age point to 3.5 per­cent af­ter June’s num­ber was re­vised up­ward to 3.4 per­cent from 3.3 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased Fri­day by the state Depart­ment of La­bor and In­dus­trial Re­la­tions. The last time the job­less rate was at this level was Au­gust 2015, when it also hit 3.5 per­cent. The num­ber has been tick­ing up since drop­ping to 3.1 per­cent in Fe­bru­ary and March.

The num­ber of con­struc­tion jobs has fallen for two straight months af­ter peak­ing at 40,600 in May. There were 39,400 con­struc­tion work­ers em­ployed in July.

Build­ing per­mits have been de­clin­ing through­out the year, ac­cord­ing to Eu­gene Tian, chief econ­o­mist

We still have one of the low­est un­em­ploy­ment rates in the na­tion.”

Eu­gene Tian Chief econ­o­mist, state Depart­ment of Busi­ness, Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment and Tourism

for the state Depart­ment of Busi­ness, Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment and Tourism.

“We knew sooner or later that con­struc­tion jobs would be re­flected in the de­crease in build­ing per­mits,” he said. “When is­su­ing build­ing per­mits, it takes about a half-year to one year to start con­struc­tion, so it’s not sur­pris­ing to see con­struc­tion jobs de­crease.”

Tian is still up­beat about the econ­omy even though July’s num­bers showed a higher un­em­ploy­ment rate and fewer non­farm pay­roll jobs.

“It doesn’t show a trend be­cause most of the in­dus­tries are still grow­ing,” Tian said. “The slow­down for the month ac­tu­ally hap­pened in just three in­dus­tries: pro­fes­sional and busi­ness ser­vices, state gov­ern­ment and con­struc­tion. We still have one of the low­est un­em­ploy­ment rates in the na­tion.”

To­tal non­farm pay­roll jobs last month de­creased by 400, to 650,800, but still were up by 14,100, or 2.2 per­cent, over the past year. The non­farm pay­roll jobs fig­ure in­cludes peo­ple who might hold mul­ti­ple jobs but doesn’t in­clude peo­ple who are self-em­ployed.

For July, Hawaii’s un­em­ploy­ment rate re­mained the sixth low­est in the coun­try be­hind South Dakota (2.8 per­cent), New Hamp­shire (2.9 per­cent), Ne­braska (3.1 per­cent), North Dakota (3.1 per­cent) and Ver­mont (3.2 per­cent).

The state’s low­est un­em­ploy­ment rate dat­ing back to Jan­uary 1976 — the old­est avail­able data on the U.S. La­bor Depart­ment web­site — was 2.4 per­cent, achieved from Oc­to­ber through De­cem­ber 2006 and May through Septem­ber 1989.

The U.S. un­em­ploy­ment rate held steady at 4.9 per­cent in July.

Among the pay­roll jobs, the largest loss last month was in pro­fes­sional and busi­ness ser­vices, down 900. Most of the drop was in the ad­min­is­tra­tive and sup­port sec­tor. Con­struc­tion was down 900 jobs. Gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ment fell by 700 jobs, largely as a re­sult of sea­sonal fluc­tu­a­tion at the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

The largest in­creases came from the leisure and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, which rose by 1,400 jobs, and ed­u­ca­tional and health ser­vices, up 300.

In an­other mea­sure of the Hawaii econ­omy, the state’s la­bor force, which in­cludes peo­ple who are em­ployed and those who are un­em­ployed but ac­tively seek­ing work, fell to 684,300 last month from 685,600 in June.

There were 660,650 peo­ple em­ployed in July, down from 662,550 the pre­vi­ous month, while the num­ber of un­em­ployed in­creased to 23,650 from 23,050.

Hawaii’s un­em­ploy­ment rate is de­rived largely from a monthly tele­phone sur­vey of house­holds, while a sep­a­rate sur­vey of busi­nesses de­ter­mines the num­ber of non­farm pay­roll jobs.

The un­em­ploy­ment rate de­creased in all four ma­jor coun­ties from the pre­vi­ous month. State and na­tional la­bor force data are ad­justed for sea­sonal fac­tors, but the county jobs data are not sea­son­ally ad­justed and thus do not take into ac­count vari­a­tions such as the win­ter hol­i­day and sum­mer va­ca­tion sea­sons.

Honolulu County’s rate fell to 3.1 per­cent from 3.7 per­cent, Hawaii County’s rate de­clined to 4.6 per­cent from 5.1 per­cent, Kauai County’s rate dropped to 3.5 per­cent from 4.1 per­cent and Maui County’s rate slipped to 3.6 per­cent from 3.9 per­cent.

Within Maui County, Maui’s job­less rate fell to 3.4 per­cent from 3.6 per­cent, Molokai’s rate tum­bled to 9.3 per­cent from 11.6 per­cent and Lanai’s rate dropped to 6.7 per­cent from 7.6 per­cent.


The leisure and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try had the largest in­crease in the job mar­ket with a growth of 1,400 po­si­tions. Job ap­pli­cants Kirk Fong, left, and Lanoa Keahin­u­uanu at­tended The Hawaii Ca­reer Expo on Aug. 8.


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