Arts jobs see record growth in Q2

County saw 33 percent increase in the sector over same time in ’16

Employment in the arts, entertainment and recreation segment in Maui County grew around 33 percent in the second quarter as compared to the same time last year, resulting in 700 more jobs, according to state figures.

In fact, in June, which rounded out the second quarter, Maui County had 3,200 jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation, compared to 2,700 in May, according to recent statistics from the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

The increase was a “record historical level,” said Christine Hirasa, strategy/communications officer with the DBEDT.

Overall, Maui County saw a net gain of 1,900 jobs, or a 2.6 percent increase, from April 1 to June 30 over the same period last year, according to the state department, which released its third-quarter 2017 statistical and economic report last week.

Jobs in the arts, entertainment and recreation segment showed the highest job growth among more than 10 job categories listed by the state.

“I would attribute that to the increase in tourism, in the fact (visitors) are doing activities,” said Teena Rasumussen, Maui County’s Economic Development director.

On Maui, visitor arrivals by air increased 5.3 percent and visitor expenditures increased by 6.7 percent in the second quarter as compared to the same period in 2016.

Rasmussen said the art, entertainment and activities category includes jobs in boating and ocean activities, beach activities, ziplining and horseback riding. Maui County’s many festivals also fall into that category.

Other categories showing strong job growth include natural resources, mining and construction, with an increase of 400 jobs, or a 10.5 percent increase, and the government sector (federal and state), with 200 jobs for a 2.1 percent increase over 2016’s second quarter.

From April 1 to June 30, private building permits increased $36.6 million, or 39.1 percent, over the same quarter of the previous year. Maui County was the only county in the state to see an increase in this area. An increase in building permits signals future growth.

But down in the second quarter by around 9 percent were jobs in manufacturing, which lost 100 jobs compared to the same period in 2016. Rasmussen said this is probably due to the closure of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. last year.

In 2016’s second quarter, HC&S was slowly laying off workers, with the bulk of the layoffs at the end of they year when the plantation closed.

Because of this, Rasmussen said, there are fewer manufacturing jobs, with the major impact showing up in comparisons later this year.

After two years of growth above 2 percent, Hawaii’s inflation-adjusted economy grew by 0.9 percent during the first quarter of 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Overall, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said Hawaii’s economy continues to show positive growth, but at a slower place.

Rasmussen agreed. “I do believe that we are probably seeing one of the peaks right now for at least in the near term,” in Maui County, she said.

But overall, Rasmussen said, she is pleased that the unemployment rate on has not shot up, despite major company closures.

In addition to the HC&S shutdown in December 2016 that cost 651 jobs, in July 2016, Makena Beach & Golf Resort closed, laying off at least 300 employees. Kmart’s closing this June cost 125 jobs.

But the unemployment rate for Maui County for the second quarter was 3.1 percent, down 0.2 percentage points for the same quarter last year.

“Those three major events. That really shows how resilient our economy is on the island, when you can have those major closures and you don’t see your unemployment ratchet up,” Rasmussen said.

“We kept on looking every quarter, we kept expecting unemployment to notch up. It did not materialize,” she said.

Rasmussen said the growth in the economy helped laid-off workers be absorbed by the job market.

But she said it would have been a “disaster for our economy” if the three companies had shut down during a recession.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.