Hawaii businesses are still struggling to fill open positions, but the situation has improved slightly since May, according to a recent workforce survey by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

The chamber surveyed its members throughout the state in July, as an update to an earlier survey conducted in May.

According to the results, which were released Monday, 80% of businesses have job openings. While that’s still a high figure, it marks a small improvement from the May survey, when 85% of Hawaii businesses reported openings.

“Even though our economic activity is improving, there are still a lot of open positions available … and many businesses are struggling to fill these positions,” Sherry Menor-McNamara, the CEO of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, said in an interview with Pacific Business News.

The survey included nearly 200 responses from small, medium and large businesses across a range of industries.

Eighty-five percent of respondents, however, reported that they have not laid off or furloughed employees since May 2021.

Among businesses with job openings, about 65% have 1-10 open positions, while about 9% are looking to fill 11 or more openings. Fewer than 10 companies are looking to hire more than 100 employees.

Seventy-five percent of respondents with openings said that they are struggling to find workers, down from 86% in the May survey.

More than half, or 59% of respondents, said are considering or have considered “raising compensation, benefits, signing bonus, referral bonus, or other incentives to fill positions.” That’s down from 64% in May.

The added burden on existing employees, however, has not improved. Seventy-three percent of respondents said the challenges in increasing staff have put “pressure on existing employees,” the same percentage as it had been in May.

While Covid-related restrictions on masking and capacity have loosened since the previous survey, fewer than 50% of respondents say that business has improved following those changes.

According to the survey, 22% of businesses said it will take more than 18 months to return to pre-pandemic levels. Another 22% said it will be six months to a year.

“Even though there is a lot of economic activity, many businesses have not returned to pre-pandemic levels of revenue. I think that has been the perception — that because we are almost fully opened and with the uptick in visitors arriving — that businesses are doing OK,” Menor-McNamara said. “Yes, they are doing OK, but they are, at this stage, now climbing out of that hole of lost revenue.”

On top of that, Menor-McNamara said that businesses might be headed for tougher times.

“With the recent surge in the Delta variant, that may lead to more hardship for businesses,” she said. “For health and safety reasons, there may be some customers that do not want to go out … and who knows what is going to happen with the visitor arrivals. I think businesses will continue to be faced with challenges, whether it’s the workforce shortage, or in revenue. And that is why the effort has been to vaccinate as many people as possible, because that is one way to save our economy.”

In an effort to help businesses fill openings, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii also announced Monday that it has launched a new campaign called Hawaii2Work – Securing Tomorrow’s Workforce Today. The goal of the campaign is to connect jobseekers to the chamber’s Hawaii is Hiring website, an online resource it launched last year that features job listings and information on hiring events, as well as job training and career coaching resources.

The campaign will also encourage businesses to register with ClimbHI Bridge, a workforce development platform.

The chamber will host two webinars this month to discuss workforce issues in conjunction with the campaign. The first, Back2School: Legislation and Collaborations that are preparing Hawaii Students for Next-Gen Jobs, will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. Aug. 11. Next up is Hawaii2Work: Addressing Hawaii’s Workforce Shortage from 10 to 11 a.m. Aug. 17.

For more information on the campaign and to register for the webinars, click here.

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