Hawai‘i’s Economy ‘Positive But Slowing’

November 21, 2018, 9:27 AM HST (Updated November 21, 2018, 9:27 AM)
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The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released its fourth quarter 2018 Statistical and Economic Report on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.

In this report, DBEDT revised its projection on Hawai‘i’s economic growth downward to 1% for 2018 from 1.5% projected in the previous quarter. The downward revision mainly resulted from the recent economic data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which showed that Hawai‘i’s economic growth during the first half of 2018 was at .5 percent. BEA revises state level economic growth data every quarter, which shows that the general trend for Hawai‘i’s economic growth has been positive but slowing.

According to the BEA data, Hawai‘i’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, Hawai‘i’s economic growth rate reached 3.4% in 2015 and then went down to 2% in 2016 and 1.2% in 2017.

“Hawai‘i’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% and government contracts awarded increased 39.3% during the first three quarters of 2018,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria.

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

During the first 10 months of 2018, Hawai‘i continued to have the best labor market in the nation with an average unemployment rate of 2.2%, which was the lowest in the nation and the lowest rate in Hawai‘i’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% 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).

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

“According to the airline schedule available so far, scheduled air seats to Hawai‘i during the first nine months of 2019 will increase by .3%, which leads us to expect about 1.8% arrival growth in 2019,” said Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian. “The growth of visitors will be mainly coming from the U.S. market because air seats on international flights are expected to decrease during the first three quarters of 2019.”

The most recent economic forecasts by more than 50 top economic research organizations (the Blue Chip Economic Indicators) released a report (Nov. 10) that the U.S. and world economies will experience steady growth in 2018 and 2019, and the U.S. economy will experience accelerated growth at 2.9% in 2018 and 2.6% in 2019. Hawai‘i’s economic growth rate will be lower than that of the nation, as well as lower than the average Hawai‘i economic growth rate of past 30 years at 1.8%.

DBEDT revised the visitor industry forecast with visitor arrivals now growing at 5.8% for 2018, 1.8% for 2019 and 1.5% for 2020 and 2021. Growth of visitor expenditures will be at 8.9% for 2018, 4.2% for 2019, and 3.6% for 2020 and 2021.

DBEDT kept its projection on the non-farm payroll job count unchanged from the previous quarter forecast at 1.2% for 2018, .9% for 2019 and 2020, .8% for 2021. The unemployment rate projections were revised upward to 2.3% for 2018, and will gradually increase to 3.4% by 2021.

DBEDT kept the projection for consumer inflation, as measured by the Honolulu Consumer Price Index, the same as previously projected, at 2% for 2018, and will gradually increase to 2.7% by 2021.

DBEDT revised the nominal personal income growth rates downward from the previous quarter forecast to 3.3% for 2018, 3.5% for 2019, 3.8% for 2020 and 4% for 2021. During the first half of 2018, nominal personal income grew 3% from the same period last year. Growth of real personal income was also revised downward from the previous quarter forecast and is now 1.6% for 2018 and is expected to remain at about that growth rate for the next few years.

The DBEDT Quarterly Statistical and Economic Report contains 136 tables of the most recent quarterly data on Hawai‘i’s economy as well as narrative explanations of the trends in these data.

The full report is available here.

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