Hawaii jobless claims plunge

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – New claims for unemployment compensation plunged across Hawaii last week, and total claims, including repeat filers, are down to the lowest level in months.

New claims fell by hundreds last week to 1,605 statewide, the Hawaii Department of Labor & Industrial Relations reports, with only one office bucking the trend significantly: the Kona unemployment office logged almost 50 more first-time claims than the week before.

Total claims came to 13,625, the lowest level since Thanksgiving. In recent weeks the total has always been higher than 14,000 and sometimes has topped 15,000. Total claims were down in each of the eight unemployment offices statewide.

The figures were released just after the U.S. Labor Department posted a small national decline in jobless claims, and just before it issued its more detailed report on March, showing a one-tenth decline in the national unemployment rate, to 8.1 percent.

The Hawaii jobless rate for March will be updated in a week or two, but the statewide jobless rate has been consistently lower than the national rate.

Hawaii unemployment data have suggested two simultaneous trends, with people thrown out of work now mostly finding new work rapidly, while others, who have been out of work for months, are having more difficulty finding new work. The data don't provide any clear explanation, but economists have suggested a skill issue as some jobs vanish permanently rather than cyclically.

The national unemployment rate almost doubles when the definition of "unemployed" is expanded to include people who need full-time work but can only find part-time, and others who have stopped looking for work. These include "discouraged workers" and others who decided to take advantage of slumping economic conditions to return to school and acquire new skills.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.