LOS ANGELES — Hawaii projected gross domestic product growth of about 2% this year, outpacing the national growth rate, as tourism and construction jobs boosted the island economy.
Slow, stable growth is expected through 2019 at which point GDP growth will shrink to 1.6%, mainly due to inflation, according to the fourth quarter report released Wednesday by the state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
"We are encouraged to see the continued growth in our payroll jobs," said DBEDT Director Luis Salaveria in a release. "During the first three quarters of this year, 14,000 new jobs were added and that's the highest job gain since the great recession in 2008. Forty percent of the job gains came from the construction industry, which is on track to set a new record year in 2016."
Construction jobs grew by 16.5% during the first nine months of 2016. Educational services, entertainment, and food services each grew by 4.3% during the same time period.
Hawaii's unemployment rate was 3.3% through September, the fifth lowest in the nation.
The expected 2% GDP growth rate for this year compares with a projected 1.5% rate for the U.S., and is up from a 1.8% projection made in the previous quarter. By 2017, the U.S. economic growth rate projected at 2.2% will outpace the projected Hawaii economic growth rate of 1.9%, the report said.
"Tourism has been performing better than expected and we have revised our visitor arrival projection to 2.3% and visitor spending projection to 3.9%, both of which are higher than previously projected," said Chief State Economist Eugene Tian.
DBEDT expects that visitor arrivals will reach 8.9 million in 2016, a 2.3% increase from 2015. Visitor arrivals growth in the next few years will drop to below 2%, however.
The strength of Japanese and Canadian currency was cited by Tian for the increase in daily visitor spending over the last few months. Visitor arrivals increased by 2.6% and visitor spending increased by 3.7% for the first nine months of the year. Visitor spending is projected to increase by 3.9% to $15.7 billion for the full year.