Report: Layoffs amid shutdown disproportionately impacted lowest-income workers

State orders have shuttered scores of Hawaii businesses, brought tourism to a virtual...
State orders have shuttered scores of Hawaii businesses, brought tourism to a virtual standstill, closed school campuses and prompted tens of thousands of Hawaii residents to work from home. Location: Waikiki Beach / April 20, 2020(jonathan saupe | Jonathan Jared Saupe / Digital Content Creator / Hawaii News Now)
Published: Apr. 27, 2020 at 4:48 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 27, 2020 at 4:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly one-third of Hawaii businesses included in an expansive new poll say their revenues have essentially plummeted to zero amid the statewide shutdown.

Additionally, the survey found nearly 70% of workers who have been laid off made than less $50,000 a year — a worrisome sign that those hardest hit by the state’s shutdown are those least financially equipped to handle it.

The poll was conducted by the Economic Research Organization at the University and the Chamber of Commerce. Over the course of a week, the groups conducted data from 623 businesses statewide.

Carl Bonham, executive director of UHERO, said the survey’s results underscore the huge — and unprecedented — scope of economic losses incurred by Hawaii businesses.

Unsurprisingly, the tourism industry has been battered the most.

The hotel sector said it expects to see its year-over-year revenues to be slashed in half. Food services are bracing for a similar decline.

And roughly half of hotels and restaurants say they’re essentially bringing in no revenues right now.

Also concerning: While Oahu has seen the greatest number of job losses, the percentage of workers laid off across all sectors is far higher on the Neighbor Islands.

Hawaii Labor Department figures show that 211,000 people have filed for unemployment in Hawaii since March 1, driving the state’s unemployment rate to upwards of 33%. That’s the highest in the nation.

And it’s also the highest ever recorded in Hawaii.

According to the UHERO survey, the deepest layoffs have been at hotels, which have laid off roughly 83% of workers. Scores of hotels have closed entirely amid the state’s stay-at-home order and quarantine for visitors.

Retailers have also been crippled in the shutdown, laying off 76% of workers.

“The impact of the crisis will hit hardest the very people and places who are already the most vulnerable,” the report’s authors said. “The employees who have lost their jobs are likely those already struggling to make it.”

At a legislative committee hearing on Monday, Bonham said the survey underscores the need for a comprehensive plan to reopen Hawaii’s economy and get businesses up and running again.

One glimmer of hope in the poll: About 60% of non-essential businesses said they’re ready to reopen — and rehire their full staff — as soon as they’re given the green light to do so.

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