Economy shows signs of being stalled amid pandemic

  • Bonham

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s economic recovery is showing signs of stalling after several months of improvement, with analysis finding nearly 20% of workers are not fully employed.

A broad assessment of the labor market called the U6 unemployment rate shows Hawaii has the highest in the country at 9.3%, Hawaii Public Radio reported Tuesday.

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The increased level of unemployment is primarily attributed to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The figure represents a substantial decline from April 2020, when a quarter of Hawaii workers were jobless.

Reducing the number of unemployed workers in the state will be difficult because many businesses continue to struggle, University of Hawaii economist Carl Bonham said at a recent hearing before legislators looking for solutions.

“There is really no reason to add additional employees back in because the ones who are back at work, many are working part time. They’re not fully employed and the business aren’t making enough money to justify bringing additional workers back on,” Bonham said.

A new Hawaii House bill under consideration would set a statewide standard for Hawaii’s pre-travel coronavirus testing program in an attempt to boost industries related to tourism.

Linda Ichiyama, chair of the state House Committee on Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness, said the goal is to establish one statewide program that includes a test three days prior to travel.

Hawaii’s Safe Travels program requires visitors and returning residents to receive coronavirus tests before arrival to avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Counties can add testing restrictions at the local level.

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“If you don’t have your results in hand when you arrive, you can take a rapid test at the airport and then another test three days later, in order not to be subject to the 10-day quarantine,” Ichiyama said.

While a standardized testing program may provide short-term support, health experts and economists have said the long-term solution to Hawaii’s economic crisis is widespread vaccination.

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