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Economic Currents

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UHERO 101.9: Who's hiring? Who knows!

Posted October 10, 2013 | Categories: Blog

Beginning in July 2013, the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) discontinued the regular monthly publication of industry payroll job counts for Kauai County, Maui County, and Hawaii County citing budgetary constraints. These statistics provided the most comprehensive and timely assessment of labor market conditions and served as an indicator of broader economic activity in each county. There are no alternative sources for this timely measure of our county economies. The loss of this data will negatively affect a number of stakeholders across the state.

The regular publication of industry payroll job counts is a valuable service to individuals and private business as well as policy makers. Imagine how hard it will be to evaluate the impact of the next shock such as a natural disaster, loss of an airline, or terrorist event. Of course, the jobs data are also crucial to understanding the evolution of the county economies during positive times. By identifying which industries are hiring and which are not, job seekers can concentrate their search in the fastest growing industries and students can make better choices on courses of study and training. Firms can use these figures to determine which industries are growing and which are shrinking, allowing them to assess business conditions among their suppliers, competitors, and customers. For policy makers these statistics are valuable for assessing economic conditions in real-time and evaluating the effects of new programs. With the termination of the industry payroll job counts, it will become increasingly difficult for private and public sector decision makers to make informed, data-driven decisions.

The discontinuation of these statistics comes at an especially unfortunate time as many federal statistical agencies are also ending publication of data as the result of the federal sequestration. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has recently announced that it is being forced to scale back its county level personal income statistics program. It remains to be seen what other data publications will be discontinued by federal agencies. These cuts together with the loss of industry payroll job counts will leave the public with precious little information that can be used to measure economic conditions on the Neighbor Islands.

At UHERO we believe that collecting and publishing this data is a valuable public service. If you agree we encourage you to contact your representatives at the State Legislature. Let them know about the value of these statistics and the serious data problem facing Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii counties. With your help we hope that funding will be reallocated so that DLIR can resume their work to collect and publish industry payroll job counts for all the counties in the state.

---Carl Bonham and James Jones

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