Maui Business

53,000 Unemployed in Hawaiʻi, But State Chamber Dealing with Employee Shortages

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The Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi is working with leaders in education, business and community to address the statewide workforce shortage problem.

The Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i is working with Hawaiʻi’s educators, businesses and community leaders to address the workforce shortage problem, in alignment with the US Chamber of Commerce’s recently launched America Works Agenda. 

The national workforce shortage also is seen in Hawaiʻi, with the number of unemployed people nearly two times higher than the number of job openings. According to local data, in April 2021 the state of Hawaiʻi had 53,000 people unemployed and 27,415 job openings.

The workforce shortage is affecting Hawaiʻi businesses, as seen in a recent survey by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi: 

  • More than 80% of Hawaiʻi employers surveyed are struggling to find workers to fill open positions 
  • More than 70% say the openings are putting pressure on existing employees 
  • More than 60% say they have had to make adjustments in overtime and shift schedules 

Locally, collaborative efforts are underway to address Hawaiʻi’s workforce issues: 

  • Sector Partnerships: Employer collaboratives called Sector Partnerships are actively meeting to build Hawaiʻi’s talent pipeline for in-demand jobs in the Engineering and Healthcare fields. These employer collaboratives are co-convened by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi and the State of Hawaiʻi Workforce Development Council, with support from the University of Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Department of Education, and private sector employers.
  • Short-Term Training Programs: Multiple short-term training programs are now available through the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges’ Hana Careers Pathway program, the American Job Centers and others. The Chamber of Commerce is a collaborative partner. 
  • Work-based Learning: Community-based organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, serve as Work-based Learning Intermediaries to bring real-world work exposure to high school students enrolled in Career Academies. This Career and Technical education places students on a career pathway from an early age, increasing their likelihood of attaining an Industry Recognized Certification or degree after high school. 
  • Supply & Demand Alignment: An analysis is underway to identify Hawaiʻi’s current and future IT Workforce needs, ensuring that training and education programs in Hawaiʻi are producing the skills and qualifications employers need in the Information Technology fields. This analysis is a collaboration between the University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi, the Harold KL Castle Foundation and private sector employers that hire IT workers. 

The Chamber of Commerce also recently launched “Hawaiʻi is Hiring,” which is designed to connect Hawaiʻi Residents impacted by COVID-19 with employment and training resources. 

These efforts are in alignment with the US Chamber of Commerce America Works Agenda, which recommends these solutions to address the country’s worker shortage: 

  • Help Americans acquire the skills they need to fill today’s open jobs.
  • Improve educational and job training opportunities for the jobs of tomorrow.
  • Remove barriers to entering the workforce. 
  • Expand the workforce through immigration reform. 


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