Hawaii economy still growing slowly

HONOLULU — The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released its fourth quarter 2018 Statistical and Economic Report last week.

In this report, DBEDT revised its projection on Hawaii’s economic growth downward to 1 percent for 2018 from 1.5 percent projected in the previous quarter.

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The downward revision mainly resulted from the recent economic data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, or BEA, which showed that Hawaii’s economic growth during the first half of 2018 was at 0.5 percent. BEA revises state level economic growth data every quarter, which shows that the general trend for Hawaii’s economic growth has been positive but slowing.

Hawaii’s economy started the most recent recession in the fourth quarter of 2008 and was out of the recession during the first quarter of 2010, about one quarter later than the national economy. During the current economic expansion, Hawaii’s economic growth rate reached 3.4 percent in 2015 and then went down to 2 percent in 2016, and 1.2 percent in 2017.

“Hawaii’s economy is still expanding and we see our construction industry performing well, with the value of private building permits having increased by 3.6 percent and government contracts awarded increased 39.3 percent during the first three quarters of 2018,” said DBEDT director Luis P. Salaveria in a press release.

About 85 percent of the government projects were under the state government. As an indicator of government construction completed, state government payments for capital improvement projects increased 35.9 percent to $1.3 billion during the first nine months of 2018.

During the first 10 months of 2018, Hawaii continued to have the best labor market in the nation with an average unemployment rate of 2.2 percent, which was the lowest in the nation and the lowest rate in Hawaii’s history for the first 10-month period. For statewide employment, the number of people who are either employed for pay or self-employed, was at a record high level during the first 10 months of 2018 at 670,850.

Non-agriculture payroll jobs increased by 10,900 during the first 10 months of 2018. The leisure and hospitality sector accounted for 46.8 percent of the jobs gains with 5,100 jobs added. Healthcare and social assistance and professional and business services each added 2,400 jobs during the same period. A few industries experienced job losses, which included state government (-600 jobs), retail trade (-400 jobs), manufacturing (-300 jobs) and information (-200 jobs).

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Visitor arrivals registered the best year-to-date arrivals during the first three quarters of 2018 with more than 7.4 million visitors coming to Hawaii by airplane.

The corresponding nominal visitor expenditures increased 9.8 percent during the first nine months of 2018. Total number of air seats on scheduled flights to Hawaii, a leading indicator of the tourism industry, increased 9 percent during the first 9 months of 2018 and is expected to increase by 5.4 percent during the rest of 2018.