Unemployment rate jumps to 24% amid pandemic

Nearly a quarter of Hawaii Island’s workforce was unemployed in April as COVID-19 continues to tear through the economy, state labor statistics released Thursday show.

Twenty-four percent — or 20,650 people in the island’s 85,950 person labor force — were without work during the fourth month of 2020, according to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. In March, unemployment was at 2.9%.

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Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped to 22.3% in April, up from just 2.4% the previous month, as hotels, restaurants and retailers closed amid efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Nationwide, the jobless rate stood at 14.7%

The state Department of Labor said Thursday 487,550 people were employed in Hawaii during the month out of a labor force of 627,450.

By island, the statistics indicate unemployment is most severe on Maui and Kauai islands. The jobless rate on Maui was 36.1% in April on a seasonally unadjusted basis. On Kauai it was 34.4%.

Lanai had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.5%, followed by Molokai at 12% and Oahu at 20%.

Job losses across the state were highest in the leisure and hospitality sector, which saw 70,000 positions cut, followed by trade, transportation and utilities where 16,100 jobs were lost. Job contraction was also reported in professional and business services (6,600), other services (5,900), educational and health services (4,900), manufacturing (3,200), financial activities (1,600) and construction (800).

Government employment also dropped by 12,700, primarily in the Department of Education and University of Hawaii system.

Employment in the information sector was unchanged.

Meanwhile, initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 13,900 or 1,173% compared to one year ago. Over-the-month initial claims also jumped by more than 1,250% as businesses shutdown or reduced operations when the COVID-19 state of emergency mandated statewide closures and stay-at-home orders took effect March 25.

Weekly or continued claims went up by 725 or 10.6% compared to a year ago. Continued claims swelled to 20.8% in April from March.

For the week ending Saturday, there were 18,518 unemployment claims on the Big Island, according to DLIR. Of those 11,325 are from the Kona office and 7,193 are from the Hilo office.

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Of the Big Island claims filed last week, 1,389 are new, with 776 from the Kona office and 613 from the Hilo office.

The Associated Press and Hawaii Tribune-Herald contributed to this report.

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