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Incomes will rise in Hawaii, but job market remains ‘fragile’

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Hawaii residents will see their incomes grow slightly in 2012 and pick up more in following years as hiring and business profits improve, according to a University of Hawaii forecast released Friday.

But the analysis by the university’s Economic Research Organization said the job market, especially on neighbor islands to Oahu, will stay fragile for years because so many jobs were lost during the Great Recession.

Income will grow from 2.3 percent to 3 percent for people living on the neighbor islands in 2012, the forecast said. It predicted income growth of 1.2 percent on Oahu during the same time.

The forecast found that each of Hawaii’s counties is susceptible to risk from outside factors: oil prices, Europe’s debt crisis and American politics. The analysis says those could hurt consumer confidence and growth.

Consumer confidence is an important indicator for economies that depend on tourism because it’s a measure of how willing people are to spend disposable income.

Hawaii’s job market has stabilized from the recession, with the state regaining about one quarter of the jobs lost since early 2008, the study said. The analysis said the biggest gains in 2011 were in the leisure, hospitality, accommodation and food service industries.

Construction jobs declined 2 percent; the 28,000 jobs in that industry statewide were about 30 percent less than its peak four years ago.

“Construction has yet to turn the corner in Hawaii, and there was precious little progress towards recovery in 2011,” the report said.

The analysis also said construction jobs will grow moderately in Oahu this year, given high-rise condominium development, commercial permitting and rail construction.

Jobs are expected to increase in Honolulu, Hawaii and Maui counties in 2013, and drop slightly in Kauai. Each of the for counties were expected to post job increases in 2014.

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