The unemployment rate is so low, businesses must recruit, adapt

  • Photo courtesy Kauai Chamber of Commerce

    Mark Perriello

  • Photo courtesy HiEmployment

    Christina Aqui, staffing support at HiEmployment, works on scheduling more than 80 workers each week.

LIHUE — State unemployment rates have reached their lowest numbers on record — and while that’s good, it can also be a problem.

“Many businesses on Kauai are having great difficulty finding and retaining qualified employees as a result of the low unemployment rate,” said Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce.

Kauai’s jobless rate was only 1.8 percent for October, a decrease from 2.3 percent since last month and 3.2 percent from October 2016, according to the Hawaii State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

“Many small businesses report that they are unable to move forward with plans to expand because they are unable to staff-up adequately,” Perriello said.

Recent online jobs listings for Kauai include positions for airport security officers, cashiers, secretaries, receptionists and personal assistants.

According to Scott Lever, Kauai staffing manager at HiEmployment, employers are seeking to fill positions for drivers, service agents, office administration, warehouses, landscaping, construction and especially general laborers.

“As a company that is always trying to hire workers in all industries, I can tell you that it is more difficult right now than it has been in the four years I have been in my position,” Lever said. “Basically, anyone who wants to have a job and can actually keep a job, has a job, oftentimes two jobs. For those who don’t have a job right now, there are a variety of reasons they are not employed.”

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa is one company looking to hire a number of restaurant jobs as well as spa positions. They are not adding new positions but are replacing employees that have left, said Diann Hartman, director of marketing communications at the resort.

“We don’t have any difficulty filling part- and full-time positions,” Hartman said. “It’s a little more challenging always with casual positions, because generally that just means they have another job. They’re looking for extra work, so their schedules might conflict.”

“The unemployment rate is always really quite low on Kauai, so we haven’t seen a significant difference,” she added. “It’s a great place to work. I think that’s why we generally don’t have trouble filling most of our positions.”

Like other large businesses, the hotel attends job fairs and participates in career days at schools to educate about work opportunities that are available on island.

“Right now we are still looking for workers and probably always will, being that we have a high demand in our work force,” said Shandell Lau, Kauai staffing supervisor for HiEmployment. “We offer an incentive to our employees for the referrals they bring in.”

“Another great benefit that we offer is flex scheduling to work with someone’s schedule, whether they want to be part time, only work evenings, or full time,” she said.

Sheraton Kauai is currently fully staffed and not looking to hire new employees, said Chip Bahouth, general manager.

“We have, at the hotel, put together plans relative to wage rates and benefit packages that make us highly competitive with all areas of the market in our industry, as well as other industries,” Bahouth said. “If you want to get good people, you have to pay for them, and we’ve recognized that for some time. We offer a full medical, full dental package with pension benefits in order to retain talent and get talent. We have found that very beneficial in hanging on and not having to go out and fight in the market to find people.”

Some businesses are also creating bonuses for new employees and seeking creative ways to market job positions.

“We utilize The Garden Island/Advertiser/,, CraigsList, CareerBuilder, job fairs and banners placed around the community for attracting potential workers. And we pay a referral bonus to our current employees for bringing new workers to us,” Lever said. “I know the car rental companies at Lihue Airport are paying a $4,000 hiring bonus to new employees.”

A majority of the available jobs on island are for entry-level positions, and Hawaii’s minimum wage is set to increase to $10.10 per hour on Jan. 1.

“This is a workers market,” Perriello said. “Many employees will jump ship quickly for even modestly higher wages and better benefits.”

  1. Tom Pickett November 26, 2017 7:11 am Reply

    1.8% unemployment on a small island is not a positive economic sign it is a red light that signifies long term, persistent problems.

    With proposed flight increases for 2018 we will have one visitor for every two residents in our “house” on any average day. (Currently 65,930 residents and 29,437 visitors on any average week).

    That’s like your local family of four has two guests in the house every night of the year. The guests do not make their beds, clean their toilets, cook their meals, do their dishes or help in the yard. You would like to hire domestic help to service your visitors. Unfortunately there is no help available because there is no place for them to live.

    I say use the HTA budget to improve visitor experience (add housing to increase labor pool) rather than to stupidly bring more visitors to an island that should have a “No Vacancy” sign hung up at the airport.

  2. BeHappy November 26, 2017 7:58 am Reply

    As long as the tourism departments gets more and more of our tax money to bring in more visitors, we will continue to need more employees. When are they going to realize that we are paying higher taxes to give these departments more money to bring in more people spending more money so we can overpopulate our islands and fill it with things we do not need. Reduce, Reduce, Reduce and you will see a happy island with good sustainable jobs instead of a false economy run by our tax dollars and the tourist’s dollars. It’s a mad circle that our leaders just cannot grasp.

  3. P.D. November 26, 2017 6:35 pm Reply

    If the truth be known, take a look at the U6 rate, instead of the U3, which is what the media blares. and a few other sites put the REAL unemployment quite higher.

    The U3 is propaganda, folks, propaganda. Work one hour a week? Guess what? You’re employed!

  4. Sunrise_blue November 26, 2017 9:21 pm Reply

    Good article. But I suggest more in the way of vomitory. Wage earners. It’s almost the holidays and hiring again are the shopping malls for help. This would be most desirable situation to be in, added work for the holidays and extra money.

  5. Larry Leaver November 27, 2017 7:31 am Reply

    I agree that its becoming more difficult to find jobs, not only employment but high paying as well.
    Currently residing in Virginia I see others with 2 jobs or sources of income, which means less time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down 0.1 percentage point in October to 3.6 percent, the second consecutive monthly decline, and was down 0.5 percentage point from a year ago. October’s unemployment rate of 3.6 percent was the lowest rate since the March 2008 rate of 3.6 percent. Household employment expanded slightly to 4,181,517, the 34th consecutive monthly increase and a new record high.

    Regardless of how much flucuation the employment rate does, the need and trend to work online has grown substancially and the future of earning income online far exceeds traditional sources.

    If you want to not stress or worry about making more money, or relying on someone else then I highly recommend you work from home, becoming your own boss, making easily $2000+ weekly, giving away free websites! Check It Out Here: —->>>

    Much Success!

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