HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The latest state report on tax revenues and building permits shows a decidedly slower economic recovery on neighbor islands than on Oahu.
The monthly update on Hawaii leading economic indicators, released Tuesday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, contains figures that mostly cover the first quarter of this year: January, February, March.
General excise tax revenues, the single strongest indicator of consumer and business spending, fell 4.4% statewide in the first quarter despite March coming in 2.3% higher than year-before levels. From other state reports we know excise tax revenues improved significantly in April and May. But a first quarter comparison of the operating counties shows relative economic strength.
Excise taxes were down 2% on Oahu, down 8% on Kauai, down 16% in Maui County, and down 18% on the Big Island, compared to the first quarter of 2009.
A parallel indicator is a comparison of revenue trends in the first quarter for the transient accommodations tax, commonly known as the hotel tax. Those revenues were up 37% on Oahu, down 6% on Kauai, down 47% in Maui County, and down 66% on the Big Island, compared to the first quarter of last year.
Another leading indicator of some importance is applications for building permits, which gives some indication of what developers think is going to happen to the economy.
Kauai residential building permit activity was down 85% in the first quarter, while Maui County and the Big Island were down more than 40% compared to the same time last year. Yet residential building permit applications almost doubled on Oahu, where there are 30 existing homes on the market for every new single family home.