January jobless rate up slightly

The statewide unemployment rate in January was 3.7 percent, one-tenth of a percent higher than in December, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Hawaii’s jobless rate has hovered below 4 percent since last October, notably below the national rate of 6.5 percent. Most of the increase in unemployment figures are attributed to an expected post-holiday drop in the number of retail and food services jobs available. Overall, non-agricultural jobs decreased by 8,700.

The seven-week nurses’ strike that ended in mid-January had a “two-prong effect” on employment, the department noted. Nurses returning to work prompted a substantial jump in the number of health care and social assistance jobs, but temporary services firms and administrative support businesses saw their payrolls shrink.

State government jobs shrank by 3,300 and private education jobs by 900, attributed primarily to the winter break. Other factors cited by the department include job cuts by the U.S. Postal Service and military exchanges.

The new year means unemployment calculations are now based on data from the 2000 census, rather than the 1990 figures. Hawaii’s labor force in January was comprised of 575,100 employed and 21,900 unemployed.

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