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New NCL cruise ships help raise job counts

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Norwegian Cruise Line is getting most of the credit for the 2.3 percent increase in jobs in Hawaii's leisure and hospitality sector.

The sector added approximately 2,400 jobs in the 12 months ending in January. Overall, the state added about 17,800 jobs to its work force during that time and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reached a 15-year low of 2.4 percent.

The national jobless rate was 4.7 percent in January.

Boosting the job count was the arrival last year of NCL's Pride of America, which employs a crew of more than 1,000 workers, as does its sister ship, the Pride of Aloha. The special rules under which NCL operates in Hawaii require crews to be composed mostly of U.S. citizens.

More good news is on the way on the job front. A third vessel, the Pride of Hawaii, is scheduled to go into service here in June.

Some of the other new leisure and hospitality hires appear to be at resort hotels, although they may not be long-term. Andy Lee, a spokesman for UNITE HERE Local 5, which represents hotel workers mostly on Oahu, said his members are frustrated because employers have not restored staff to pre-Sept. 11 levels despite high occupancy rates.

Wes Furtado, international vice president-Hawaii for the ILWU, which represents most Neighbor Island hotel workers, said many of the busiest hotels were hiring "casuals" -- what they call "temps" downtown -- as needed.

In January, the state's total seasonally adjusted labor force was 645,700, including 630,450 with jobs and 15,300 without. The number of employed had grown by 24,400, or 4 percent, year over year while the jobless total had shrunk by 3,150 or 17.1 percent.

Significant job gains over the year also were realized in trade, transportation and utilities (5,200, a 4.5 percent increase), construction (4,300, or 13.6 percent) and education and health services (1,400, or 2 percent).

Source: Pacific Business News

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It's nice that NCL is helping reduce unemployment. It remains to be seen whether U.S. based crews can be trained to give the type of service that we've come to expect from the east Asians and eastern Europeans employed by most cruise lines. We are very much in favor of employing Americans (we've never even owned a foreign brand car), but NCL has had mixed success, at best, with its Hawaii based crews.

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