Hawaii’s unemployment figures for September are in and, yep, the news isn’t good. Statewide, joblessness rose to 4.5 percent, up from 4.2 percent in August and 2.8 percent a year ago, according to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. In Maui County the jump was even more dramatic—from 4.7 percent in August to 5.5 percent in September. That’s getting uncomfortably close to the unsightly national average, which stands at 6.1 percent. Bottom line: if you’ve got work, be grateful; if you don’t: good luck.
It’s not often that good economic news and President Bush share the same sentence. But Dubya’s decision to lift visa restrictions for South Koreans traveling to the U.S. will likely give Hawaii a shot in the arm. Quoted in an AP story, Marsha Wienet, who works as a tourism liaison in the Governor’s Office, said the move could quadruple the number of South Korean visitors to the island by 2010, bringing the figure from the current 40,000 to 160,000. Even if those projections are on the rosy side, we’re still looking at a significant influx of people and money at a time when tourism from the Mainland is drying up. Given Gov. Lingle’s cozy relationship with GOP leadership, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if the decision came at least in part as result of her efforts. So now we’re (sort of) giving credit to Bush and Lingle? Time for a long hot shower.
If nothing else, the ongoing economic crisis has provided an endless array of tortured euphemisms, as officials struggle to avoid using the dreaded “r” word. The latest, from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, as quoted on CNNMoney.com: “protracted slowdown.”
We’ve taken our share of shots at The Maui News over the years and we’ll take more. But you’ve got to give credit where it’s due, as it is with this sublime bit of reportage from the October 18 edition: “The 34th annual Maui County Business Outlook Forum at the Maui Beach Hotel was easily the most downbeat in decades, if not ever. The Elleair Ballroom was filled with people paying to eat shrimp and hear bad news.” Sounds like a party. The gist of the gathering—which, though more sparsely attended than in years past, still drew a handful of movers and shakers—was that numbers are bleak across the board and likely to stay that way for a while. Hope the shrimp was good.
More trouble at the Honolulu Advertiser, with PBN reporting that the state’s biggest daily—a subsidiary of Gannett Co. Inc., which also owns U.S.A. Today—is looking to shave $5-$10 million off its operating budget and is offering employees another round of buyouts. If enough staffers don’t take the bait it’ll most assuredly mean more layoffs; the paper has already endured three rounds of firings in the last 15 months. MTW