Despite drop, Kaua‘i’s jobless rate still highest in the state

HONOLULU — As the state Department of Labor &Industrial Relations Tuesday announced that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May was 8.1% compared to 8.5% in April, Kaua‘i’s unemployment rate has continued to drop also, and was down to 11.3% in May of 2021.

Yet the island has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

“Historically, Hawai‘i County has had the highest unemployment rate among Hawai‘i’s counties, but currently and during the COVID-19 pandemic Kaua‘i County has had the highest unemployment rate in the state,” said Bill Kunstman, DLIR public information officer.

Kaua‘i had a historically-low 1.9% unemployment rate pre-pandemic in February 2020, which rose to 32% in April 2020 before dropping and stayed around 20% until October 2020.

When Gov. David Ige announced reinstatement of a job-search requirement for those collecting unemployment in May, residents questioned if it will help those unemployed get back to work and decrease the unemployed rate.

Statewide, 595,300 were employed and 52,150 unemployed in May, for a total seasonally-adjusted labor force of 647,450. Nationally, the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 5.8% percent in May, down from 6.1% in April.

DLIR Director Anne Perriera-Eustaquio said the continued decline in the overall unemployment rate is certainly a positive sign. However, she said the official unemployment rate is just one measure that applies to a complex, evolving situation on a statewide level that includes things like child care and ongoing safety and health issues in the workplace.

“Although the metrics lag, the U-6 unemployment rate is still over 20%, as it accounts for discouraged workers, marginally-attached workers and those seeking full-time employment but are only working part time,” Perriera-Eustaquio said.

According to the Alternative Measure of Labor Underutilization chart, in the second quarter of 2020 through the first quarter of 2021 averages, the United States had 14.5% under the U-6 unemployment rate, plus total employed part-time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civil labor force plus all marginally-attached workers. Hawai‘i stands at 21.9% under the same U-6 unemployment rate, and that’s 6.5% higher than the rest of the nation.

The unemployment rate figures for the state and U.S. are seasonally adjusted in accordance with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics methodology. The not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for the state was 7.5% in May, compared to the revised rate of 8% in April.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the month of May were 2,639, a decline from the previous month of 1,209, or 31.4%. The total number of continued weeks claimed for ongoing state benefits for the month of May was 17,299, a decline of 520, or 2.9% from the previous month.

In comparison to one year ago, initial claims fell 8,440 to 2,639, or 76.2%, and weeks claimed have dropped from a record 102.5 thousand, or 85.6%.

The seasonal fluctuations in the number of employed and unemployed persons reflect hiring and layoff patterns that accompany regular events such as the winter holiday season and the summer vacation season. These variations make it difficult to tell whether month-to-month changes in employment and unemployment are due to normal seasonal patterns or to changing economic conditions.

Therefore, the BLS uses a statistical technique called seasonal adjustment to address these issues. This technique uses the history of the labor-force data and job-count data to identify the seasonal movements and to calculate the size and direction of these movements.

A seasonal-adjustment factor is then developed and applied to the estimates to eliminate the effects of regular seasonal fluctuations on the data. Seasonally-adjusted statistics enable more-meaningful data comparisons between months or with an annual average.

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Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. CommonSenseish June 23, 2021 8:51 am Reply

    Maybe because these people are being given so much free handouts that they have absolutely NO DRIVE or REASON to get a job.

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