Hawaii residents will soon once again be required to provide proof they are on the job hunt to continue receiving unemployment benefits, Gov. David Ige said Thursday.
Beginning May 30, the job search requirement will be reinstated after it was suspended last year due to unusual job conditions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. As part of the requirement, residents claiming unemployment insurance must make at least three job search contacts each week, in addition to registering for work on HireNet Hawaii, applying for jobs by submitting a resume, and/or attending a job fair, according to officials with the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
Claimants will also be required to keep a written log of job contacts, and be able to submit the log to DLIR’s Unemployment Insurance Division upon request. Not doing so could result in a loss of UI benefits.
“Our goal is to reemploy the unemployed and it is our hope that by reinstating the work search requirement, it will help more unemployed workers connect with available job openings,” said DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio in a statement. “Whenever there is a change to Hawaii’s unemployment insurance process, questions arise from both claimants and employers. We’re pleased to announce we have created a new website to answer frequently asked questions as well as to provide updates.”
The reinstated job search requirement applies to residents who have lost their full-time jobs and are on regular unemployment or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Those who are still attached to their regular full-time employer, are members of a union that provides job placement services, or are receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits are not mandated to meet the requirement.
The requirement’s reintroduction as part of the unemployment insurance process comes amid an announcement that Hawaii’s unemployment rate is continuing its slow descent at 8.5% in April.
Statewide, 594,400 residents were employed and 55,350 were unemployed in April for a total seasonally adjusted labor force of 649,750. Hawaii’s unemployment rate is still above the national average rate — which actually increased 0.1% from March to April — of 6.1%.
Additionally, a recent survey of local businesses by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii found that many Island employers are facing hiring challenges of their own, with more than 85% of survey respondents reporting job openings, according to previous reporting by Pacific Business News.
Of those, nearly 65% have 1-10 openings, while about 30% are looking to hire 11 or more employees, and a couple dozen businesses are seeking more than 100 employees.
“When the pandemic shut down global tourism, there was no work for people in the hospitality sector. In response, the state relaxed the job search requirement for recipients of unemployment insurance benefits,” Ige said in a statement Thursday. “Today, the public health measures we implemented and the success of our vaccine program have paved the way for us to reenergize our economy. As tourism has picked up, more employers are looking for workers to fill positions.”