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State says economic growth accelerating

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Hawaii’s economy is picking up speed.

The state said Thursday it expects growth in the islands to accelerate this year by 1.9 percent and by 2.3 percent in 2016. Those projected growth rates are much higher than the average growth rate of 1.3 percent experienced during the last four years, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

New estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show that Hawaii’s inflation-adjusted gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output — had been below that of the U.S. in the past three years and was just 0.8 percent in 2014, the lowest since the recession ended at the end of 2009.

“Although we haven’t seen the 5.0 to 6.0 percent economic growth rates experienced during the previous business cycle, our economy has recovered since 2011 (and) Hawaii has been on the expansion path,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “Our employment and payroll job count both were fully recovered by last year and during the first half of 2015, both reached the historic high levels. Our unemployment rate during the first half of 2015 was the seventh lowest in the nation.”

DBEDT revised upward its projection for the tourism industry and now expects visitor arrivals to rise 4.3 percent and reach a record 8.7 million this year. That’s up from the agency’s May forecast for a 2.5 percent increase. In addition, DBEDT sees visitor spending rising 3.8 percent to a record $15.5 billion. That also is up from the 2 percent increase projected in its previous forecast. If those projections are reached, it would mean the state would have achieved records for both visitor arrivals and spending for four years in a row.

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