By Paul Drewes
(KHNL) - As fall classes begin, students returning to school mean many local businesses are left short staffed and unable to keep up their store hours.
It used to be that most Hawaii stores had sale signs out front.
But now what you see at the malls are help wanted signs - everywhere!
"I could use two people," said one store owner, at the Ward Warehouse.
"I want to bring in two more part-timers," added another.
Hawaii's nation leading unemployment rate is only around 3 percent.
Which means there are less than 20,000 people to come in an fill out an application, let alone be qualified for the job.
"That's been a bane, trying to find qualified workers," said Russ Awakuni, the owner of Emblazon Hawaii.
The shortage leaves many businesses short-staffed nd paying the price for fewer job-seekers.
"Everyone is having to put in more hours, I do have some employees that will do the overtime, so we're able to get by but it's costing us more," said Carl Ashizawa, the manager of Logos Bookstore.
For Awakuni, the cost could be his Maui kiosk operation, because he can't even find enough employees to open the store.
"We've had to close the shop. I've had to fly to neighbor island and run the shop on Saturday and Sunday and then flew home after this weekend," Awakuni explained.
Because there are just too few workers for too many jobs, in addition to using the classified section, retailers are also finding creative ways to bring in applicants.
"I've been hitting the Craigslist as well as the UH employee on-line for getting employees," said Camden Courcier, the owner of Wireless Works.
"We're a Christian bookstore. We've been going out to churches to send out notices that we need help," said Ashizawa.
Hawaii's tight job market gets tighter not only at the beginning of the school year, but also around the holidays when more seasonal help is needed.