Hawaii remains an appealing location for visitors who arrived here in record numbers last year, but for some residents, not so much.
According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau county population estimates, Hawaii’s population grew at an annual rate of 0.5% on average between July 1, 2010 and July 1, 2018 but that included negative growth in 2017 and 2018.
Honolulu was the biggest population loser over the eight-year period, having posted a net loss of more than 61,700 residents from domestic migration — residents leaving Oahu for the mainland versus newcomers arriving.
Nearly 13,000 residents bailed from Oahu alone from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, according to the Census.
A county population that was once taking aim at the 1 million mark dropped from nearly 993,000 in 2016 to 980,000 by 2018, the figures show.
Likewise, the state population dipped from a record high of nearly 1.43 million in 2016 to 1.42 million in 2018.
The state’s chief economist, Eugene Tian, said Hawaii’s high cost of living and a strong economy on the mainland were factors.
“People are moving to the mainland for opportunity,” Tian said. “The mainland in recent years is booming with more job opportunities.”
Tian said recent military deployments figure in the numbers as well. Oahu’s military population decreased from nearly 50,000 in 2014 to nearly 43,000 in 2018, according to figures from the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.
As for the latest neighbor island Census numbers, Maui saw a net loss of 151 residents due to domestic migration over the eight-year period, while Kauai had a net increase of 224 domestic newcomers.
Hawaii County’s net domestic migration topped 6,000, helping push the island’s population over the 200,000 mark for the first time.
The Big Island also led the four major counties in the percentage of population increase at 8.6%, the Census report said, although it’s uncertain whether the numbers reflect the negative impact of the 2018 Kilauea Volcano eruption, which began in May and lasted into August.
Hawaii County’s total population was estimated at 200,983.
The Census data, released Thursday, included county population numbers but no details such as age, gender and race.
Despite the exodus, Honolulu’s population actually grew 4.4%, or by 26,874 residents, from 2010 to 2018, thanks to net international migration that added 42,604 newcomers plus the 46,553 attributed to the net “natural” increase of births versus deaths.
Maui County experienced an 8% population increase from 2010 to 2018, bringing the total to 167,207, while Kauai saw a 7.5% increase in residents, with the island’s total population estimated at 72,133.
Tiny Kalawao County on the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula lost two residents in recent years, reducing the population to just 88 residents.
Despite different population growth numbers, the four major counties tracked along a similar pattern, trending upward in the first half of the 2010s before slowing substantially from 2014 and on.
Honolulu accounted for 69% of Hawaii’s total population, followed by Hawaii County (14%), Maui (12%) and Kauai (5%).
In a year-to-year comparison, the state saw a 0.3% dip in population from 2017 to 2018, attributable to a 0.6% decline on Oahu that offset minor increases of less than 1% in the other counties.
Meanwhile, visitor arrivals to Hawaii reached an all-time high in 2018 for the seventh year in a row.
But while tourism is expected to keep posting records, it is likely to occur at slower rates in the next few years, according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.
The population changes in Hawaii were not noteworthy enough to rank any of the isles as among the top 100 fastest-growing U.S. counties. Counties in two other warm-weather states, Florida and Texas, claimed 38 spots on the list. Williams County, N.D., was No. 1.
California and Nevada, two western states popular with Hawaii ex-pats, also failed to make the list of fastest-growing counties.
U.S. Census Report by on Scribd
Star-Advertiser staff writer Christie Wilson contributed to this story.