Hawaii Unemployment Skyrockets in April

The Hawai‘i State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DLIR) today announced that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 22.3 percent. The historic increase from the revised rate of 2.4 percent in March reflects the economic impact of COVID-19 in Hawai‘i. Statewide, 487,550 were employed and 139,900 unemployed in April for a total seasonally adjusted labor force of 627,450. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in April, rising from 4.4 percent in March.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 13,900 or 1,173.0 percent compared to one year ago. Over-the-month initial claims also jumped by 1,250.5 percent as businesses shut down or reduced operations when the COVID-19 state of emergency mandated statewide closures and stay-at-home orders took effect.

Weekly or continued claims went up by 725 or 10.6 percent contrasted to a year ago. Continued claims swelled to 20.8 percent in April from March. Because these are consecutive filings, these numbers may remain elevated as initial claims become continued claims in the coming weeks and months.

The unemployment rate figures for the State of Hawai‘i and the U.S. in this release are seasonally adjusted, in accordance with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) methodology. The not seasonally adjusted rate for the State was 23.5 percent in April, compared to the revised rate of 2.3 percent in March.

Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey)

In a separate measure of employment, total nonagricultural jobs decreased by 121,800 in April over March. Among the major industries, there were job losses in Leisure & Hospitality (-70,000), Trade, Transportation, & Utilities (-16,100), Professional & Business Services (-6,600), Other Services (-5,900), Educational & Health Services (-4,900), Manufacturing (-3,200), Financial Activities (-1,600), and Construction (-800). Employment in Information remained unchanged. Government employment went down by 12,700 jobs, primarily in the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii system. In comparison with April 2019, total nonfarm jobs are lower by 121,200, or -18.5 percent.

Technical Notes

Seasonal Adjustment

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 the 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 statistical series enable more meaningful data comparisons between months or with an annual average.

Current Population (Household) Survey (CPS)

A survey conducted for employment status in the week that includes the 12th day of each month generates the unemployment rate statistics, which is a separate survey from the Establishment Survey that yields the industry job counts. The CPS survey contacts approximately 1,000 households in Hawai‘i to determine an individual’s current employment status. Employed persons consist of: 1) all persons who did any work for pay or profit during the survey reference week, 2) all persons who did at least 15 hours of unpaid work in a family-owned enterprise operated by someone in their household, and 3) all persons who were temporarily absent from their regular jobs, whether they were paid or not. Persons considered unemployed are ones that

do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior four weeks and are available for work. Temporarily laid off workers are counted as unemployed, whether they have engaged in a specific job seeking activity. Persons not in the labor force are those who are not classified as employed or unemployed during the survey reference week.

Benchmark Changes to Local Area Unemployment Statistics Data

Statewide and substate data for 2010-2019 have revised inputs and have been re-estimated to reflect revised population controls and model reestimation.

Change to Monthly Employment Estimates

This release incorporates revised job count figures for the seasonally adjusted series. The revised data reflects historical corrections applied to unadjusted supersector or sector level series dating back from 1993 through 2019. For years, analysts with the State DLIR’s Research and Statistics Office have developed monthly employment estimates for Hawai‘i and our metropolitan areas. These estimates were based on a monthly survey of Hawai‘i businesses and analysts’ knowledge about our local economies. Beginning with the production of preliminary estimates for March 2011, responsibility for the production of State and metropolitan area (MSA) estimates was transitioned from individual state agencies to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

For Hawai‘i, this means the transition of statewide, Honolulu and Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina MSA estimates for both the seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted areas are produced by BLS. State agencies will continue to provide the BLS with information on local events that may affect the estimates, such as strikes or large layoffs/hiring at businesses not covered by the survey and to disseminate and analyze the Current Employment Statistics (CES) estimates for local data users. BLS thinks this change is designed to improve the cost efficiency of the CES program and to reduce the potential bias in state and area estimates. A portion of the cost savings generated by this change is slated to be directed towards raising survey response rates in future years, which will decrease the level of statistical error in the CES estimates. Until then, state analysts feel this change could result in increased month-to-month variability for the industry employment numbers particularly for Hawai‘i’s counties and islands. BLS can be reached at (202) 691-6533 for any questions about these estimates.

The not seasonally adjusted job estimates for Hawaii County, Kauai County, Maui Island, Molokai, and Lanai are produced by the State of Hawaii Department of Labor & Industrial Relations.

Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force & Unemployment Estimates for Honolulu & Maui Co.

BLS publishes smoothed seasonally adjusted civilian labor force and unemployment estimates for all metropolitan areas, which includes the City and County of Honolulu and Maui County. BLS releases this data each month in the Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment news release. The schedule is available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.toc.htm.

Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization

The six alternative labor underutilization state measures based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) and compiled on a 4-quarter moving average basis defined:

U-1, persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
U-2, job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (this is the definition used for the official unemployment rate);
U-4, total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
U-5, total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers*, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; and
U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

* Individuals who want, and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey, for such reasons as child care or transportation problems, for example. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.

Note that, the state unemployment rates (U-3) that are shown are derived directly from the CPS. As a result, these U-3 measures may differ from the official state unemployment rates for the latest 4-quarter period. The latter are estimates developed from statistical models that incorporate CPS estimates, as well as input data from other sources, such as state unemployment claims data.

Update on Hawaii Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) announced today that it distributed $140,300,082 in unemployment insurance benefits over the past week. $83,776,600 of that total represents the $600 plus up made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27, 2020. The department paid out 139,628 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits during that same week.

“I am tremendously grateful for our workers as well as the volunteers working at the Hawaii State Library and Hawaii Convention Center,” said Scott Murakami, DLIR Director. “We know that there are still many in our community who are suffering and with the help of our sister departments, the Legislature, private sector partners and non-profits, we are resolute in providing a greater level of relief as soon as possible.”

Staffing Capacity

  • Seventy-six DLIR staff have been internally reallocated to process claims,
  • Twenty-five volunteers from the Hawaii State Public Library System at the Hawaii State Library,
  • 590 volunteers trained and working at the Hawaii Convention Center processing claims and staffing the phone center.

The staffing at the Hawaii Convention Center includes two shifts Monday through Saturday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (phone center hours 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Technology Update

  • 3/23 Online web application becomes available 24/7,
  • 4/14 Claims status check available 24/7 went live,
  • 4/30 Replicated database for login module to divert traffic from the mainframe
  • 5/2 Phase One of the claims certification moved on to replicated database to divert from the mainframe,
  • 5/5 Amazon Cloud Front installed to unemployment system program which removes bots and improves the ability to manage front end traffic,
  • 5/5 Amazon Web Application Firewall installed to protect web applications from cyber- attacks to enhance security,
  • 5/8 Installation of an additional 150 phones to process claims and take calls
  • 5/9 Phase II claims certification completely moved to replicated database to divert from the mainframe.

Processing Capacity

  • 4/6 Entrepreneurs Sandbox equipped with twenty-five phones, closed 4/26
  • 4/20 Hawaii Convention Center equipped with 210 workstations,
  • 4/26 Thirty phones installed in a new phone center in the convention center,
  • 5/1 Thirty additional phones added to convention phone center and 60 workstations equipped with phones,
  • 5/4 Ten additional workstations to handle email processing,
  • 5/8 150 additional phones installed at workstations.

In sum, the Hawaii Convention Center is now equipped with 280 workstations of which 270 have phones for calling.

Governor & DLIR Director Provide Update on Unemployment Insurance

Gov. Ige and Scott Murakami, Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR), gave updates on progress being made regarding unemployment insurance, during today’s Community Connection Facebook Live.

Murakami reported 141,077 claims were processed as of Wednesday, which represents 63% of the total claims received. Of that number, 100,602 claims were paid out.

DLIR is asking anyone who needs to file weekly certifications for their unemployment claims to file on designated days based on their last names to avoid overloading the system.

Image via Rep. Lowen’s Facebook Page

The schedule is A-G (Mondays), H-O (Tuesdays), P-Z (Wednesdays), with Thursday-Sunday designated as open days for anyone.

DLIR is also expanding its call center with an additional 150 phones to handle more questions. Staff are also working to create a database for businesses that are bringing back their employees and receiving PPP federal loans.

State Pays Over $87M in Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) announced today that it distributed $87,521,534 in unemployment insurance benefits over the past week. $47,317,800 of that total represents the $600 plus up made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27, 2020.

“The department was again able to deliver a record level of benefits in a week and for that I am tremendously grateful for our workers,” said Scott T. Murakami, DLIR Director. “We know that there are still many in our community who are suffering, and we are resolute in providing a greater level of relief as soon as possible.”

Hawaii Unemployment Claims for Week Ending April 18

A quick look at this weeks initial unemployment claims for the week ending April 18, 2020. Statewide initial unemployment claims increased by 2,565.2%, with this week’s total filings of 26,599 and filings during the same week in 2019 of 998.

Shown below is a table containing this week’s unemployment data – initial claims filed as compared to the same week last year. “Initial claims” initiate a determination of eligibility to begin a claimant’s benefit year (new claims) or subsequent period of unemployment (additional claims) within the benefit year.

Comparing 2020 to 2019 for the counties:

  • Oahu had 16,152 more claims filed
  • Hawaii had 3,191 more claims filed
  • Maui had 4,052 more claims filed
  • Kauai had 1,990 more claims filed
  • Agent had 216 more claims filed In percentage changes, comparing the current week to the same week a year ago:
  • Oahu had a 2,531.7% increase
  • Hawaii had a 1,753.3% increase
  • Maui had a 4,134.7% increase
  • Kauai had a 3,553.6% increase
  • Agent had a 900.0% increaseSource: Hi State Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations; calculations by the HI State Dept. of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

Over 240,000 Unemployed in Hawaii, 1/3 Workforce

Hundreds of state workers from the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives, the Hawaiʻi Government Employees Association (HGEA), the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association (HSTA), and the University of Hawaiʻi Professional Assembly (UHPA), with the support of Governor David Y. Ige’s administration, have come together to volunteer totrain and work with the state labor department to process the backlog of unemployment claims recently filed due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

It represents a dramatic partnership and launching of a large-scale, coordinated operation to address the skyrocketing unemployment claims that now number over 240,000 and have affected more than one-third of Hawaii’s workforce. 

“We recognized that a massive amount of help would be needed to tackle the backlog of unemployment insurance claims that exploded in a few of weeks. The fastest way to tackle thisenormous problem was to coordinate an unprecedented, across-government effort,” said House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke. “This effort was stood up in just three days.” 

“Hawaiʻi is a special place where everyone steps up to help each other and today’s unprecedented partnership is due in large part to HGEA spear-heading a successful volunteer drive with HSTA and UHPA that generously provided over 300 volunteer state workers from across state government. Over 70 plus volunteers are also coming from the State House of Representatives and the Legislative Reference Bureau to aid in the effort. The processing of an Unemployment Insurance claim is tedious and complicated and DLIR was working day and night to process them. This should provide much-needed assistance to exponentially increase the processing capabilities of the state to deal with the outstanding unemployment insurance claims and get people the relief they need,” said House Labor Committee Chair Aaron Ling Johanson. 

“I want to thank the volunteers, the unions, the State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations, Department of Accounting & General Services, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, andOffice of Enterprise Technology Services for helping to make this tremendous effort possible,” said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki. 

Along with hundreds of other state workers, Representatives Saiki, Della Au Belatti, Sylvia Luke, Aaron Ling Johanson, Tom Brower, Lisa Kitagawa, Stacelynn K.M. Eli, and Ty J.K.Cullen, have volunteered to take the training and learn to process claims.

Training sessions will be held this week at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center on Monday and Tuesday, with newly trained volunteers expected to start processing claims by Wednesday. 

State employees who would like to volunteer can sign-up at www.hawaiiworks.org and should contact their union representatives or department deputy directors. 

The Unemployment Game Show: Are You “Really” Unemployed?


The Unemployment Line

I worked the last decade on Oahu for the Department of Education.

When my wife gave birth to my son over on Oahu, we didn’t want our son to be taken care of by someone outside of the family when he was only one when my wife went back to work after her maternity leave.

Things really worked out well for us, as the job my wife was working at ended shortly after my son was born so my wife was able to stay home and collect unemployment while I kept working on Oahu.

My wife found her dream job… Unfortunately for me, it was on the Big Island. She returned to the Big Island and we were very fortunate that her parents were able to watch my son during the days.

The problem was… I was literally getting sick of not being able to see my wife and son. Anyone that knows me… knows that my Ohana means more then anything in the world to me.

So after about 3 years of flying back and forth between islands, I decided to just move back to the Big Island and look for a job. Well we all know the economy is tanking and we all know that it’s pretty hard to find a job here… So needless to say I was very fortunate to land a position with the DOE as well as the Census Bureau.

My DOE job was only an Emergency Hire position and coincidentally my Census Bureau position ended a week after my Emergency Hire position ended. I went from working 60 hours for about 2 months to not working at all.

Well I was still getting called into work as a “Sub” of late… just not on a regular basis. Now it’s summer time and I know they won’t be calling me at all.

The census bureau sent me a form telling me I could take it to the unemployment office if I needed to file unemployment. I really didn’t think I would get it just for the simple fact that I only worked a couple months with the Census Bureau.

Well it turns out that the Census Bureau work wasn’t even the work that they figure in. I guess they go back the last 5 quarters back to 2008 to see your employment history.

I told the lady at the Unemployment office that I quit my DOE job on Oahu because I wanted to move home to be closer to my family. Well it turns out… that doesn’t have anything to do with things. Because I was working for the Census Bureau f/t … that old employment kicked in.

So somehow between my old job on Oahu, and the jobs I’ve worked since moving back to the Big Island… it made me eligible for unemployment.

I’m actually quite amazed at how much they do give unemployed people here in Hawaii. Although I guess it’s based upon what I was making on Oahu and it’s not nearly what I was making there….

But still… Getting unemployment on the Big Island for my Oahu work is pretty weird. It’s gonna be pretty hard to even find a job on the Big Island making what I was on Oahu!

Well, I’ll just be happy and do what I have to do to try and find a job.

Anyone know of any hook ups?