Months after lockdown lifted, no ‘significant’ signs yet of economic recovery in Hawaii

Waikiki / June 10
Waikiki / June 10(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 2:37 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 2:40 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new survey of Hawaii businesses finds no signs of a significant recovery in the islands, despite restrictions on most parts of the economy being lifted.

The one major sector still shuttered, however, is the biggest: Tourism.

And that’s meant that many businesses left worrying about their future in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic are still in dire straits — and some say they don’t expect to hold on that much longer.

Of 464 Hawaii businesses surveyed by the Chamber of Commerce, nearly 20% said they didn’t generate any revenue in July and another 20% reported earning less than half of what they typically bring in for the month. Meanwhile, three quarters of businesses surveyed said they’d already made staffing cuts or reductions — and roughly a third anticipate deeper cuts in the months to come.

The Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii said the data — coupled with an anticipated delay in reopening tourism — suggests up to 15% of businesses may close permanently.

UHERO Executive Director Carl Bonham called the survey results “troubling.”

“There is no sign yet of significant recovery and depending on when the pandemic is brought under control and when the tourist economy can safely re-open, the survey suggests that businesses will need significant support if they are to weather this crisis,” Bonham said, in a news release.

UHERO did note that the reopening of the kamaaina economy did appear to halt a decline in food services, retail and real estate. But many of those laid off in the early days of the pandemic haven’t been rehired. And in fact, layoffs continue — especially among those in the lowest-salary jobs.

The dismal situation for Hawaii businesses comes as the state grapples to respond to a surge in COVID-19 infections, which is threatening to overwhelm Oahu hospitals.

The UHERO economists said a lockdown to rein in the virus would be devastating to Hawaii businesses — as the first one was. But they noted a public health catastrophe would be just as hard on the economy, “making any apparent contradiction between public and economic health largely spurious.”

They said the survey results underscore the need for state action to protect workers and support businesses “until a robust and evidence-informed reopening plan can be implemented.”

For the full survey results, click here.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.