Struggle to find employees continues as extra $300 unemployment benefit ends in Hawaii

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — It has been a struggle for businesses — large and small — across the state to attract employees. Now that the extra $300 from federal unemployment benefits has stopped, business operators said they are seeing more applications come in but not at the rate they expected.

There continues to be more job openings than people looking for work.

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Zippy’s doubled its new job recruit bonus for entry level positions from $500 to $1,000 in order to attract more applications. Zippy’s Recruitment Manager Lindsey Dadulla said the bonus for management positions is $3,000.

Dadulla said, “We do have quite a few positions open, it’s definitely in the hundreds but we are also trying to ramp up for next  year already.”

The current job market is putting more power on those seeking employment. The Kauai Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Perriello said several job sectors continue looking for employees. He said the uncertainty connected to COVID continues to get in the way of people searching for jobs.

“The people who are struggling the most are the people who are paying less than $15 an hour,” Perriello said. “There are enough jobs out there right now that are paying more than that are going to attract people.”

The first eight months of 2021 saw 123,000 job openings — compared to 119,000 in 2019. The Chief State Economist Eugene Tian said he was surprised it was only a 4,000 job opening difference, but the markets are completely different.

“The difference is that in 2019, it was an expansion, the economy was great and tourism was the peak the year, and the business were seeking for expansion. But now in 2021, businesses are seeking for recovery,” Tian explained.

Tian said overall wages have increased by more than 5% across industries, which is a considerable amount.

Zippy’s has seen more applications since the extra $300 unemployment benefits ended earlier this year.

Over on the Big Island, Miles Yoshioka, Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce executive officer, said applications are not coming in as quickly as some businesses expected.

Yoshioka said, “I’ve heard it referred to as nothing happened or maybe a small up-tick but that’s about it.”

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Tian said he expects the unemployment level to remain at about 7% for the month of September, but the official rate will be unknown until October.

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