LIHUE — The unemployment rate is decreasing statewide.
However, Kaua‘i still has the highest unemployment rate among the counties, 11.2% in June.
The state has issued $2.2 billion in jobless benefits since March 1, 2020.
“Hawai‘i’s economic recovery is accelerating, driven by tourism and construction,” said Dr. Eugene Tian, chief state economist in the Research and Economic Analysis Division of the stae Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.
“Visitor arrivals in June was 84% of the June 2019 level, while at the beginning of the year (January) the recovery was only 21%. (The) construction industry added 1,000 jobs between May and June this year,” he said.
Tian said while Kaua‘i’s economy continued improving in June, it seems that there was a shift between payroll jobs and self-employed jobs, and the shift was a wash, meaning the increase in payroll jobs was the same as the decrease in self-employed jobs, so that the labor force, employment and number of unemployed are the same between May and June.
According to Tian, Kaua‘i payroll jobs increased by 200 between May and June. The largest increase was in the hospitality sector that added 300 jobs. The construction industry also added 100 jobs. Professional and educational services each lost 100 jobs.
Tian said Kaua‘i continues its tourism recovery, though it has been slower than other counties. In May, the average number daily passengers landing on Kaua‘i was 1,593. It grew to 2,501 in June, and 2,739 during the first half of July.
“Kaua‘i’s economy is more tourism-dependent, more dependent than the island of Hawai‘i and O‘ahu, and the recovery of tourism was not as fast as other counties in the state,” Tian said.
“For example, all other counties have fully recovered in terms of air seats in June, but Kaua‘i was still a short of 2.9% in June as compared with June 2019. There has been no international flights to Lihue since March 2020.”
While jobs begin to increase by 41,900 this past year, according to the DBEDT, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June is 7.7% compared to the revised rate of 8% in May.
Nationally, the unemployment rate stood at 14.5%, while Hawai‘i’s unemployment rate was 21.9%.
The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations on Friday announced updated unemployment-insurance-claims information, including paying $2,189,522,737 and 2,030,502 weeks claimed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 1, 2020.
“Ninety-one percent of the valid unemployment insurance claims that have come in since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have been processed and paid out by the DLIR,” said Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, DLIR director.
“Although it appears that the number of claims requiring departmental action is stable, we are still receiving nearly 8,000 new claims a week,” she said.
According to Perreira-Eustaquio, there were 254,995 claims filed statewide, less than 75,223 invalid number claims filed statewide, less than 9,888 valid claims waiting for verification, 169,884 valid claims requiring DLIR action, 154,984 number of paid claims, and 14,900 claims requiring DLIR action since July 16.
“One of our current challenges in contacting employers and claimants is them not answering our phone calls,” noted Perreira-Eustaquio. “If you are an employer or worker involved in the unemployment-insurance program please note that both 808-762-5751 and 808-762-5752 is the department trying to reach you to process claims.”
The department’s operations continue to evolve, including the following common issues:
• Persons working full-time and therefore ineligible for benefits but filing for the loss of part-time work;
• Incorrect deposit information supplied by claimants;
• No weekly certifications filed by claimants;
• Claim backdate issues;
• Separation-from-work issues that require investigation;
• Not allowing location information while filing certifications;
• Claimants who have filed multiple claims;
• Failure to create a username and password in the claimant’s online portal.
The DLIR also expects to borrow from the federal government soon to pay for unemployment-insurance benefits due to the depletion of the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.
There was $596,912,407 in the fund at the beginning of the calendar year that was used to pay for state benefits during the pandemic.
The additional benefits like the extensions and $600 plus-up are entirely federally funded. The CARES Act allows states to borrow without interest during 2020. Hawai‘i joins California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia in borrowing funds to pay for unemployment insurance benefits.
All claimants will continue to receive the full benefits due them, and there is no possibility of running out of funds to pay for benefits.
• Info: labor.hawaii.gov/covid-19-labor-faqs
Stephanie Shinno, education and business reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.