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Big Island jobless numbers on the decline

February 17, 2014 - 12:05am

Hawaii County experienced positive economic growth last year.

The unemployment rate decreased 2.2 percent during the third quarter of 2013, from 8.4 percent to 6.2 percent, according to a Hawaii Department of Business and Economic Development report.

The food and beverage industry gained the most jobs during that period. According to the online document, 500 of the 1,600 nonagricultural wage and salary jobs added were in “Food Services” and “Drinking Places.”

Gregory Arianoff, food and beverage director for the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, said the restaurant hired more part-time or “casual” employees last year.

“I’ve hired quite a few more people last year at the beginning the year,” he said.

The same could be said for the Waikoloa Beach Resort.

“It was a very good year last year. We had an influx in visitors and hired a lot of the positions, but most were casual positions,” said the resort’s director of sales and marketing Roger MacDonald.

While the total number of visitors to the Big Isle increased by 1.2 percent last year, data suggest they’re spending more per visit.

“What we’re finding is that jobs are potentially increasing because people are spending more money,” said executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau Ross Birch. “We didn’t have a period of influx of visitors, but our hotels are getting much more for their rooms and people are spending much more on other items, which includes food and beverage.”

Total spending by visitors increased by 14.3 percent last year compared with 2012, with per day, per person spending increasing from $158.90 in 2012 to $177.10 in 2013, according to a document found on the Hawaii Tourism Authority website.

Birch anticipates more service industry-related positions will be added in Hilo in the next few years, pending the development of Banyan Drive.

“Hilo has the greatest potential for growth because of the new owner of the Naniloa Hotel,” he said. “If it’s successful, then the potential for more hotels and more rooms on the east side will keep those employees from travelling to the west side to find employment.”

According to an article previously published by Stephens Media Hawaii, a partnership, known as WHR LLC, took ownership of Naniloa Volcanoes Resort and its nine-hole golf course in December 2013, with plans to open in 2015.

Other jobs added last year include 300 natural resources, mining and construction jobs, and professional and business services gained 200 jobs. Job losses were largest for transportation, warehousing and utility industries, with a loss of 200 jobs. There were 50 government jobs lost, and 100 jobs lost in educational services.

The unemployment rate for Hawaii decreased from 8.4 percent to 6.2 percent in the third quarter of 2013. Kauai County’s unemployment rate decreased 2.1 percent, from 7.2 percent to 5.1 percent; Honolulu’s unemployment rate decreased 1.2 percent, from 5.2 percent to 4.0 percent; and the unemployment rate in Maui decreased 1.6 percent, from 6.3 percent to 4.7 percent, according to a document from the DBEDT website.

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