Jobs finally returning to islands

Peter Ganaban
Peter Ganaban
Carl Bonham
Carl Bonham

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Economists are predicting that for first time since 2007 the job market will expand in Hawaii this year. The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) forecasts the number of jobs in Hawaii will grow from 589,600 in 2010 to 597,800 in 2011. That is an increase of 8,200 jobs.

Nowhere are jobs needed more than in Hawaii's construction industry, which was devastated by recession.

"Right now we have 600 members on the out-of-work list," said Peter Ganaban, Business Manager for the Laborers' International Union of North America, Local 368.

Ganaban is hoping as many as 200 to 300 members of the Laborers' Union are picked up to work on Honolulu's rail project, which will break ground on February 22.

"It will be very exciting at least to move that much members off the out-of-work list," Ganaban told Hawaii News Now.

UHERO published its latest economic forecast Friday. For the first time the organization is including the rail project in its forecast, a change the group made after the project was approved by the federal government in January.

UHERO expects rail may create as many as 1,100 new jobs in 2011 and may employ as many as 5,500 during the project's peak spending years in 2013 and 2014.

"Basically, things are looking better. Sort of cautiously optimistic," Bonham said.

UHERO predicts tourism will continue to grow in 2011, but not as fast as it grew in 2010. Visitor arrivals were up 8.2% in 2010. UHERO expects the growth to slow to 3.4% this year and 1.9% in 2012. The slow down, Bonham said, is understandable.

"You start to fill up essentially. Occupancy rates on Oahu the second half of the year were close to 80%. If we were to grow by another 8%, we'd be out of room," Carl Bonham of UHERO explained.

As construction workers earn and spend, and visitors pump money into the economy, Hawaii's private sector will be able to support more jobs.

The 8,200 additional jobs expected in 2011 represents a 1.4% increase over 2011.

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