Hawaii May See Double Digit Economic Downturn in 2020

Posted on May 22, 2020 in News

For Immediate Release: May 22, 2020

HONOLULU—The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released its second quarter 2020 Statistical and Economic Report today. In the report, DBEDT projected that Hawaii’s economic growth will fall by 12.1 percent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current economic conditions

On March 4, 2020, Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to protect the health and safety of Hawaii’s citizens and mitigate damages caused by COVID-19. Since then, the governor has issued eight supplementary proclamations with a stay at home or place of residence order (effective March 25, Gov. Ige changed stay at home to safer at home in his 7th supplemental emergency proclamation signed on May 7th), self-quarantine for 14 days for all people arriving into the state (effective March 26), and self-quarantine for 14 days for all interisland travelers (effective April 1). Overall, the pandemic has weakened consumer demand, particularly in tourism and other sectors that require large social gatherings or personal close contact.

Initial unemployment claims started to surge during the week of March 16, and totaled 232,893, as of the end of May 16, 2020, increasing 2,081 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Data from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations show that Hawaii’s unemployment rate in April 2020 jumped to 23.5 percent (not seasonally adjusted) with Hawaii ranking the third highest in the nation after Nevada and Michigan. 121,000 non-agriculture payroll jobs were lost in April as compared with April in 2019. The job loss was the highest for Accommodations at 64,000, followed by Food Services and Drinking Places at 41,000, and Retail Trade at 9,700. Overall the Hospitality sector lost 70,000 payroll jobs.

After declining 53.7 percent in March, the number of visitor arrivals was only 3,565 in the full month of April, while the average daily visitor arrivals in 2019 was 28,562. During the first 21 days of May, visitor arrivals to the state totaled 5,397, the daily visitor count (257 per day) now is more than double the April daily count (120 per day).

According to the Business Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau between April 26 – May 2, which was a month into Hawaii’s stay at home order, 56.6 percent of the Hawaii businesses surveyed said that COVID-19 has had a large negative effect on their businesses and 81.1 percent of respondents said their operating revenues decreased in the week before the survey. 58 percent of responding businesses decreased employee hours, and 37.3 percent of respondents cut their workforce in the last week. Of the Hawaii businesses which responded, 39.3 percent thought that it will take more than six months for business to return to normal.

Most businesses surveyed had applied for some type of federal financial assistance, but half of businesses had not received assistance when they were surveyed. The first week of the survey corresponded with the opening of the second wave of federal funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Businesses that did not get their applications submitted in time for the first round of funding were eligible to have their applications reviewed during the second round, which is still ongoing.

A survey conducted by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii released on May 5, 2020 indicated that statewide job losses between January and April 2020 were 41.7 percent for full time jobs and 41.3 percent for part time, respectively. Neighbor island counties were hit harder than Honolulu County in terms of jobs loss. When asked about the current business status in April, 36.1 percent of the respondents said they were completely shut down, 59.1 percent of the responded businesses were open with adjustments, only 4.8 percent of the responded businesses remained open regularly.

The U.S. Census Bureau released its second survey – the Household Pulse Survey on May 20, 2020. The results show that 55.1 percent of Hawaii workers that are on payroll and self-employed indicated that they lost employment income during the week of April 23-May 5, 2020. Hawaii was ranked the second highest state in percentage of workers who lost income in that period. During the week of May 5-May 12, 2020, the percentage of workers that lost employment income increased to 59.2 percent, making Hawaii the highest ranked state in the nation.

At the national level, the U.S. economic growth rate was at 0.3 percent during the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019. The Blue Chip Economic Indicators report from May 10, 2020, which is the consensus of 50 economic forecasting organizations, projected that the U.S. economic growth rate for 2020 will decrease by 5.8 percent with quarterly economic growth rate at -9.4 percent for the second quarter, -7.3 percent for third quarter, and -5.9 percent for fourth quarter. The report projected a positive 4.0 percent U.S. economic growth for 2021, with the first quarter of 2021 at -3.1 percent. Its forecasts for foreign countries were all negative except China and India which showed small positive growth.


Since the global COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying tourism shutdown are unprecedented, Hawaii’s economic forecast cannot be generated using past trends; however, basic relationships between economic variables remain unchanged, such as the relationship between job count and unemployment, personal income and GDP. Due to the government assistance programs, there will be a significant increase in personal transfer receipts from the federal government, which consists of income payments to households in which no current services are performed. The federal assistance will be reflected in household spending.

The forecasts are based on the following facts and assumptions:

  • Total non-agriculture job loss in the state in April was 121,000. Of that, 90,000 were lost in tourism-intensive industries (hospitality, trade and transportation), and the rest were in the non-tourism intensive industries.
  • Small Business Administration PPP loans to Hawaii businesses totaled $2.6 billion as of May 20, 2020 and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) totaled at $83.5 million, for a total small business loan of $2.7 billion.
  • Assume 75 percent of $2 billion from SBA loans are being used for payroll.
  • Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, total number of private employees was 546,700 and total private workers compensation was $34.3 billion in 2019 with an average compensation per employee at $62,682.
  • Average compensation per month per worker is calculated to be $5,223 per month.
  • Total jobs supported by small business loans should be equivalent to 382,900 workers.
  • PPP loans need to be spent within eight weeks, then jobs supported should be 191,400 jobs for May and June.
  • Assume visitor industry will start opening in September 2020 and will recover 30 percent of arrivals (from same month in 2019) in September and 45 percent in December 2020.
  • No cruise visitors until second half of 2021.
  • It will take six years for visitor arrivals to recover to the 2019 level, this is based on the 2009 Great Recession pace.
  • It will take two years for local (non-tourism intensive sector) businesses to recover to the 2019 level, in terms of job count. This is based on the 2009 Great Recession pace.

Forecasting Results

Based on the above assumptions, DBEDT projects that Hawaii’s economic growth rate, as measured by the real gross domestic product GDP), will drop by 12.1 percent in 2020, then will increase at 0.7 percent in 2021, 0.6 percent in 2022 and 1.1 percent in 2023.

Hawaii will welcome 3.4 million visitors in 2020, a decrease of 67.5 percent from the 2019 level. Visitor arrivals will increase to 6.2 million in 2021, 8.3 million in 2022, and 9.4 million in 2023. Visitor arrivals will not reach the 2019 level until 2025, based on the assumptions.

Visitor spending will decrease more during the next few years due to the decrease in daily spending.

Non-agriculture payroll jobs will shrink by 9.5 percent in 2020, then will increase by 4.1 percent in 2021, 2.9 percent in 2022 and 1.3 percent in 2023. It is the same as the GDP, non-agriculture payroll jobs will not recover to the pre-crisis level until 2025.

Although the unemployment rate reached 23.5 percent in April, it will improve in May and June due to the PPP and EIDL funds. Overall for 2020, the average annual unemployment rate will be at 8.6 percent, then decrease to 7.3 percent in 2021, 6.5 percent in 2022 and 6.2 percent in 2023. These rates are much higher than the average Hawaii unemployment rate of 2.5 percent between 2017 and 2019.

Nominal personal income is expected to decrease by 10.2 percent in 2020. This includes $6 billion in federal government transfer payments which consists of the SBA’s PPP and EIDL loans, the federal stimulus checks, and unemployment insurance. Without the federal assistance, personal income would have decreased by 23 percent in 2020. From 2021 and on, personal income will increase between 2.6 and 2.8 percent.

The Hawaii consumer inflation rate, as measured by the Honolulu Consumer Price Index for urban consumers, will increase at rates between 0.5 to 1.7 percent for the next few years, these growth rates are lower than previously projected at about 2 percent.

Hawaii’s population is expected to be unchanged in 2020 and increase only at 0.1 percent in 2021, 0.3 percent each year thereafter. Although international migration (usually net in migration) may be stopped in 2020, domestic migration (usually net out migration) is likely to be on hold as well in 2020.

Hawaii was one of the hardest hit states economically, but is one of the safest states in the nation during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said DBEDT Director Mike McCartney. “While our economy will not recover overnight, Hawaii is well positioned because of our strong human will, innovative spirit and physical infrastructure. We are well positioned to go beyond recovery and evolve into a more balanced and diversified economy.”

The DBEDT Quarterly Statistical and Economic Report contains 136 tables of the most recent quarterly data on Hawaii’s economy as well as explanations of the trends in these data.

The full report is available at: dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/qser.

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About the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT)
DBEDT is Hawaii’s resource center for economic and statistical data, business development opportunities, energy and conservation information, and foreign trade advantages. DBEDT’s mission is to achieve a Hawaii economy that embraces innovation and is globally competitive, dynamic and productive, providing opportunities for all Hawaii’s citizens. Through its attached agencies, the department fosters planned community development, creates affordable workforce housing units in high-quality living environments, and promotes innovation sector job growth.

Media Contacts:
Dr. Eugene Tian
Research and Economic Analysis Division
Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism
(808) 586-2470
Website: dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic

Charlene Chan
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism
Phone: (808) 587-9006
Website: dbedt.hawaii.gov

Economic Indicators 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Actual Forecast
Total population (thousands) 1,421 1,416 1,416 1,417 1,421 1,425
Visitor arrivals (thousands) ¹ 9,889 10,425 3,392 6,241 8,340 9,397
Visitor days (thousands) ¹ 88,285 90,892 29,536 54,257 72,401 81,453
Visitor expenditures (million dollars) ¹ 17,643 17,754 5,534 10,360 14,248 16,348
Honolulu CPI-U (1982-84=100) 277.1 281.6 283.0 287.0 291.6 296.5
Personal income (million dollars) 78,721 81,342 73,039 74,910 76,718 78,898
Real personal income (millions of 2012$) ² 61,931 63,169 56,473 57,264 57,894 58,762
Non-agricultural wage & salary jobs (thousands) 658.3 655.7 597.3 621.8 639.9 648.2
Civilian unemployment rate ³ 2.4 2.7 8.6 7.3 6.5 6.2
Gross domestic product (million dollars) 93,798 97,282 86,786 89,012 91,162 93,756
Real gross domestic product (millions of 2012$) 82,652 83,509 73,374 73,873 74,349 75,157
Gross domestic product deflator (2012=100) 113.5 116.5 118.3 120.5 122.6 124.7
Annual Percentage Change
Total population -0.3 -0.3 0.0 0.1 0.3 0.3
Visitor arrivals ¹ 5.2 5.4 -67.5 84.0 33.6 12.7
Visitor days ¹ 4.9 3.0 -67.5 83.7 33.4 12.5
Visitor expenditures ¹ 5.1 0.6 -68.8 87.2 37.5 14.7
Honolulu CPI-U 1.9 1.6 0.5 1.4 1.6 1.7
Personal income 4.0 3.3 -10.2 2.6 2.4 2.8
Real personal income ² 2.6 2.0 -10.6 1.4 1.1 1.5
Non-agricultural wage & salary jobs 0.5 -0.4 -8.9 4.1 2.9 1.3
Civilian unemployment rate ³ 0.0 0.3 5.9 -1.3 -0.8 -0.3
Gross domestic product 4.9 3.7 -10.8 2.6 2.4 2.8
Real gross domestic product 2.4 1.0 -12.1 0.7 0.6 1.1
Gross domestic product deflator (2012=100) 2.4 2.6 1.5 1.9 1.8 1.7
1/ Visitors who came to Hawaii by air or by cruise ship. Expenditures includes supplementary expenditures. 2019 supplementary expenditure was estimated by DBEDT.
2/ Using personal income deflator developed by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and estimated by DBEDT.
3/ Absolute change from previous year.
Source: Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, May 21, 2020.