Nearly 25% of Hawaii’s workers applied for unemployment

Businesses considered essential, meanwhile, include those that deliver health care, food,...
Businesses considered essential, meanwhile, include those that deliver health care, food, services for the homeless, gas stations, banks, hardware stores, maintenance workers, delivery services and more. Location: Chinatown Honolulu / April 1, 2020(Jonathan Jared Saupe / Digital Content Creator / Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Apr. 3, 2020 at 4:37 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) — Some 170,000 Hawaii residents filed for unemployment last month as hundreds of businesses closed statewide due to social distancing rules that crippled the state’s economy.

That’s nearly one-quarter of Hawaii’s workers.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said 170,985 unemployment claims were filed through April. Of those, more than 10,000 were duplicates.

“Having about a third of your economy just stop, you know that hurts and a big part is it’s not just tourism it’s all travel now," said Scott Murakami, the department’s director, who agrees with a University of Hawaii economist, Carl Bonham, who had predicted that Hawaii could see the unemployment rate top 25%.

Murakami said the fact that businesses are forced to shutter indefinitely during the pandemic makes it difficult to predict the impact, “We never had to accommodate for an economic situation that stems from social distancing.”

Murakami has hired an additional seven people in the first three days of April to join his staff of 45 processing claims. Just three weeks ago, he only had seven total staff members.

They have also connected some newly unemployed with jobs through their RUDDER program, which helps companies pay to provide on the job training. Murakami said certain businesses are hiring right now, security guards, cleaning crews, delivery drivers and warehouse workers are in demand during the outbreak.

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