Hawaii’s unemployment rates are low, but businesses are suffering


Unemployment rates across the nation are at record lows. 

Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was recorded at 3.9 percent in August. 

In Hawaii, the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations record’s August was at 3.1 percent for the third consecutive month.  

Statewide, 672,000 were employed, and 14,600 are unemployed. 

Though the low figures are a sign of a strong economy, there is a darker side: businesses are finding it harder to hire. 

And for local retail shops and restaurants, many worry this could translate to poor customer service. With the holiday season right around the corner, businesses are scrambling to hire employees. 

“This is usually the busiest time for restaurants and stuff, but there’s no one coming in to work,” said Christina Fuafiti, Manager at the Big City Diner in Pearlridge.  

Fuafiti explains she normally begins hiring employees for the holiday season in October. Many of the workers she hired for the summer have gone back to school. Fuafiti says Big City Diner is in need of evening shift workers. 

“It’s a big hurt for us when there’s no one to service the guests. With a lot of businesses closing down – Buzz’s, Wailanas. Those are staples in the community. Us not being able to help the guests because we don’t have the proper staff is really difficult. And it causes a lot of stress itself. We want to do the best we can, and a lot of times we are stretched really thin,” said Fuafiti. 

It’s the same struggle at the T&C Surf Shop’s Pearlridge location. 

“Just having a body to say ‘Hi’ has become a challenge over the last few years,” said associate manager Jeff Oamilda. 

The associate manager says he was proactive this year.

“We are nearly done hiring. Which is – unusual, considering the challenges. We started earlier than we normally would,” he explained. Oamilda started interviewing candidates for the holiday season one month earlier. 

 “With this unemployment rate so low. All the businesses have a hard time finding people, so we have to be competitive as far as positions go, and opportunities,” said Oamilda. 

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