Economist predicts significant out-migration to mainland amid slow recovery

Hawaii's population declined in 2019 for a third consecutive year.
Hawaii's population declined in 2019 for a third consecutive year.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 11:27 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the state’s top economists is predicting that Hawaii will see a significant migration of residents to the mainland over the next two years as people seek jobs.

Carl Bonham, director of the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii, said at a state House hearing Monday that Hawaii is expected to recover from the pandemic slower than other states.

That’s in large part because of Hawaii’s dependence on the tourism industry, which remains shut down.

“Many other state economies and county economies will recover much more rapidly and the job opportunities will simply not exist here that will exist in the rest of the economy,” Bonham said.

“If you don’t have family ties in Hawaii and you were working in tourism here and your unemployment benefits run out there is absolutely nothing to keep you here and even people with deep families ties will be drawn to other parts of the country where tourists can drive.”

Bonham predicts that by 2022, Hawaii’s population could drop by 30,000.

Under a more pessimistic scenario, that prediction is nearly doubled.

Bonham’s statements come as Hawaii grapples with one of the nation’s largest unemployment rates. The economic pain has triggered miles-long lines at distribution sites.

And experts predict the crisis will only worsen as people fall farther behind on rent and other payments.

Hawaii’s population has actually been on the decline over the last several years but for a very different reason. Tens of thousands of residents left the state because of the high cost of living.

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