U.S. unemployment falls - so do Hawaii weekly jobless claims

By Howard Dicus

HONOLULU and WASHINGTON (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a move economists failed to forecast, the U.S. jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent in November, while the latest weekly jobless claims tally for Hawaii also showed a substantial decline.

U.S. unemployment had been 9 percent in October. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington says substantial private sector hiring, partially offset by government job cuts, produced a net increase of about 120,000 jobs. Seasonal retail hiring appeared to blow past the usual seasonal adjustments that try to dial that out of the numbers.

Hawaii weekly jobless claims fell almost to 13,000 last week, with first-time claims down to about 1,500, the lowest levels in months. Weekly claims fluctuate, and often decline on a holiday week - when unemployment offices are open fewer days than usual - rebounding the following week. But in general Hawaii jobless claims have been down in recent weeks.

Total claims were down in every unemployment office across Hawaii last week.

Falling unemployment is welcome news - the Dow was up more than 100 points in the first flush of reaction to the report - but the fine print in the report included figures which showed that many employed persons are working part-time or temporary jobs because that's all they can find, while others have fallen off the unemployment rolls because they've stopped looking for work.

A Rutgers study this week found that, of Americans who lost their jobs in the recession but have since found new jobs, only 7 percent report making as much as they made before, and with 15 percent reporting their income was now substantially lower, apparently permanently.

There is a move in Congress this week to try to enact a further extension of benefits for long-term unemployed, but it was unclear if it had the votes to pass. On Thursday senators could not pass either of two versions of legislation to prevent the payroll tax from rising from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent the end of the month.

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