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Maui’s Unemployment Claims Surge for Second Straight Month

The deadly wildfires in August forced up the island’s unemployment by four percentage points to 8.4 percent in September. For the week ending Oct. 14, claims were up 217 percent from the same week a year prior.

Initial unemployment claims on Maui began to spike in August, and remain high.

Maui's unemployment rate soared in September due to job losses related to the deadly Aug. 8 wildfire, though improvements on other islands kept the statewide rate flat at 2.8 percent.

Unemployment on Maui jumped to 8.4 percent in September from 4.7 percent in August, according to a state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism report issued Thursday.

Thousands of Maui residents, including many who also lost their homes in the fire, lost their jobs as the result of the disaster, which destroyed many businesses in Lahaina and derailed tourism, which employs much of Maui's population.

Initial unemployment claims on Maui began to spike in August, and remain high.

For the week ending Aug. 26, there were 2, 705 initial claims filed on Maui, up 2, 013 percent from 128 claims in the same week a year earlier, according to DBEDT data.

Most recently, for the week ending Oct. 14, there were 589 initial unemployment claims filed on Maui, up 217 percent from 186 claims in the same week a year ago.

Maui's unemployment rate in July, before the fire, was 2.4 percent.

Part of the reason for improvements in employment on other islands is that some tourism lost by Maui has shifted to other parts of the state, according to Eugene Tian, the state's chief economist.

Tian said another reason is that more international travelers are coming to Hawaii as part of a general rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic years.

"We are still in a recovery, " he said.

Tian said a full rebound in tourism and jobs from pre-pandemic levels of 2019 is forecast for 2026 and that the Maui disaster pushed back this horizon from 2025.

Oahu's unemployment rate improved to 2.6 percent in September from 2.8 percent in August. In September 2022 it was 3.7 percent.

For Hawaii island the unemployment rate improved to 2.8 percent in September from 3.1 percent in August. In September 2022 it was 3.9 percent.

Kauai's rate improved to 2.4 percent in September from 2.6 percent in August. In September 2022 it was 3.7 percent.

Molokai had the biggest improvement, with the rate falling to 1.3 percent in September from 2.2 percent in August and 6.9 percent in September 2022.

Lanai's rate improved to 1.2 percent in September from 1.5 percent in August and 1.7 percent in September 2022.

Figures for each island are not adjusted for seasonal differences, which account for recurring changes affecting the labor market that include school resuming and holiday hiring.

The statewide unemployment rate without seasonal adjustment did increase to 3.3 percent in September from 3.1 percent in August, though it was lower than the September 2022 rate of 3.7 percent.

Seasonally adjusted, the statewide rate was 2.8 percent in each of the past two months, and was lower than 3.7 percent in September 2022.

According to DBEDT's seasonally adjusted data, there were 200 more people unemployed in September than in August, but the number of people in the labor force decreased by 800 to keep the unemployment rate flat.

There were 675, 600 people in Hawaii's labor force in September, of which 656, 400 were employed and 19, 200 unemployed. That compared with August when 676, 400 people were in the labor force, of which 657, 400 were employed and 19, 000 were unemployed.

In September 2022 there were 680, 000 people in Hawaii's labor force, of whom 655, 150 were employed and 24, 850 were unemployed.

The national unemployment rate adjusted for seasonal differences was 3.8 percent in each of the past two months, and 3.5 percent in September 2022.

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(c)2023 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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