The unemployment rate in Hawai`i fell to less than half the national rate in February, according to figures releasted today by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The statewide jobless rate fell 0.7 percent to 3 percent for February 2003, marking the fifth month in a row that the count has held below 4 percent. The national unemployment rate fell from 6.5 percent to 6.4 percent during the same period.
While it may still be too early to see any definite impact from the war in Iraq, state officials are hopeful that things have improved since the 1991 Gulf War, when 4,300 jobs primarily within the tourism sector dried up.
“While the State has yet to see a significant impact on unemployment resulting from the conflict in Iraq, we remain cautiously optimistic that our economy has stabilized to a point that we will be able to minimize the effects of the conflict,” said department director Nelson Befitel.
“It is encouraging to see that we continue to do better than the national unemployment rate, thanks in large part to the increase of jobs in the construction, health care and social assistance industries,” he added.
The size of Hawaii’s workforce held relatively stable in February, with 576,400 employed workers and 17,700 unemployed workers, according to the department.
Non-agricultural payroll jobs increased by 3,900, pushing the total count in the dominant category to 564,650. Seasonal factors accounted for much of the job gains in several sectors, including 2,900 hires in state government relating to the beginning of the spring academic term. Increases were also reported at private schools and colleges, as well as among staff ranks at the state legislature.
Health care and construction jobs also grew by 600 and 400 jobs, respectively.
There were some losses reported, primarily relating to termination of holiday hires in the retail sector. A 200-job drop was also noted in the information sector, which includes publishing industries, motion picture and sound recording industries, broadcasting, and telecommunications.