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Hawai'i's 3% jobless rate lowest in nation

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Hawai'i's jobless rate fell to 3 percent last month, the lowest in the nation.

May's seasonally adjusted rate of 3 percent, which was down from 3.6 percent in April, was also the lowest rate for the state since October 1991, according to figures released yesterday by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The strong performance is helped by a robust real-estate market and a stable tourism sector.

The total number of employed in May reached 610,750 compared with 589,400 in May 2003. About 19,050 people were reported unemployed last month, compared with 26,450 who were jobless in the state in May 2003.

The results aren't surprising, said University of Hawai'i economist Carl Bonham.

"This is already something that has been going on for a while," he said. "If you're looking for a job, you shouldn't be having a hard time, assuming you have the requisite skills."

The unemployment figures don't count discouraged workers who have stopped searching for jobs. However, given the strong employment outlook, that population should be shrinking, Bonham said.

Despite the strong results, Hawai'i lost 700 nonagricultural jobs statewide month to month, according to the state's job count survey of businesses.

At the same time, a separate household survey showed 4,850 more people employed in May, versus the preceding month. That likely means a rise in the ranks of self-employed or those working at small businesses, Bonham said.

The seasonal adjustment attempts to eliminate the influence of holidays, school schedules, weather and other recurring seasonal events.

On a nonseasonally adjusted basis, Hawai'i's jobless rate in May also was 3 percent. Honolulu's jobless rate dipped to 2.6 percent, compared with 3.7 percent a year ago. On the Big Island, May's jobless rate was 4.7 percent, versus 6.8 percent the year before.

Maui County, which includes Lana'i and Moloka'i, recorded a jobless rate of 3.1 percent, which was down from 4.3 percent in May 2003.

Kaua'i's rate fell to 3.6 percent from 4.8 percent in the year-ago period. Moloka'i's rate was 11.1 percent compared with 13.5 percent a year ago.

"This positive trend reflects the state's improving economy and the business community's high confidence and optimism of the direction that our state is being led," said state labor department Director Nelson Befitel. "Consistently low unemployment will lead to better paying jobs for our working families."

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