Hawaii jobless rate drops to three-year low in February


Hawaii's jobless rate dropped to its lowest point in three years in February.
Hawaii's jobless rate dropped to its lowest point in three years in February.

Hawaii's jobless rate declined to 6.4 percent in February, which was its its lowest level in three years, according to data provided by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR). The February unemployment rate was a decline from January's rate of 6.5 percent and the rate of 6.6 percent in February 2011, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.

Data provided by DLIR indicates that the state's nonfarm payrolls increased to 595,500 in February, which represented a net gain of 2,900 positions from February 2011, according to the media outlet. The hospitality sector experienced the most robust job growth, adding 4,300 positions. Financial activities and business services both added 900 positions.

The job growth coincided with dropping claims for jobless benefits in the state, the news source reports. The number of new applicants for these benefits dropped by 7 percent during the week that ended March 23 from the same week in 2011.

Construction staffing served as a major contributor to job growth in the state, and the sector experienced a strong improvement in employment across the nation in the last year, according to data compiled by the Associated General Contractors of America and reported by Hawaii Reporter.

A report released by the trade organization on March 30 indicated that Hawaii created 700 new construction jobs between February 2011 and February 2012, which represented an increase of 2.5 percent, according to the media outlet.

The report stated that construction staffing caused employment in the industry to increase "in 30 states and the District of Columbia between February 2011 and February 2012, while 18 states lost construction jobs and two held steady—the best net positive showing for state construction employment since January 2007," the news source reports.

Ken Simonson, the trade organization's chief economist, stated that the news was "encouraging," but stated that declaring that the industry is in a full-blown recovery would be premature, according to the media outlet.

"Washington keeps sending mixed signals that are impeding a full recovery in construction," stated Stephen E. Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer, the news source reports. "While it is good that Congress did not let highway and transit funding lapse this week, there is much more to be done to sustain long-term infrastructure investment, and to provide certainty about the tax treatment and regulations surrounding private investment."

The report also stated that appropriate government intervention in terms of providing proper infrastructure funding and effective regulation was important to the industry, according to the media outlet.