Maui's recovery from the Great Recession is proceeding more quickly than any other Neighbor Island, Leroy Laney told attendees Friday at First Hawaiian Bank's 38th annual Business Outlook Forum.
Laney, longtime FHB economic adviser and Hawaii Pacific University economics and finance professor, told the gathering that the visitor industry continues to be strong and now it has been joined by some commercial construction.
That construction is putting some of the 30 percent of construction workers who lost their jobs in the recession back to work. At its lowest point, the construction industry here had shed some 2,000 jobs.
Laney also said that restaurants and retailers associated with the hospitality industry are doing well, as are big-box stores. Residential construction and small retailers are not faring as well. On the whole, though, retailers here are doing better than those on the Mainland, Laney said.
The result is that Maui is only 6 percent below its peak job level, achieved in 2007. That lags behind only Oahu, which has pulled to within 5 percent of its peak. Hawaii island and Kauai are still some 10 percent below their 2007 levels.
Laney said Maui's "upscale image" helped its visitor industry bounce back more quickly than other Neighbor Islands.
The state as a whole is recovering slowly, but Laney said it appears to be a steady growth.
Laney predicted that Hawaii's gross domestic product would shift from a recovery mode to growth mode this year. He said that while the unemployment rate is stubbornly high, it is still some 2 percent better than the Mainland.
All in all, Laney's report was the most optimistic in several years.
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