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State’s jobless rate jumps to 22.3%

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped to 22.3 percent in April, up from just 2.4 percent the previous month, as hotels, restaurants and retailers closed amid efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The state Department of Labor said Thursday 487,550 people were employed in Hawaii during the month out of a labor force of 627,450.

Grayden Ha’i-Kelly’s family on the Big Island’s Kona Coast is among those grappling with sudden unemployment. Both he and his wife work for hotels that temporarily shut down in late March.

Ha’i-Kelly has been using up vacation time since the closure and was getting paid through last week. He’s applying for unemployment this week.

His wife filed for unemployment benefits right away but had to wait about five weeks for her first check to come through. The state has blamed delays in unemployment benefit payments on a surge of applications and outdated computer systems.

“I got to praise my wife, because she was so patient. Never, ever got angry or frustrated,” he said.

By island, the statistics show unemployment is most severe on Maui and Kauai islands. The jobless rate on Maui was 36.1 percent in April on a seasonally unadjusted basis. On Kauai it was 34.4 percent and on the Big Island, it was 24 percent

Lanai had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.5 percent, followed by Molokai at 12 percent and Oahu at 20 percent.

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