County: Boom in tourism restores jobs

 LIHU‘E — A report recently released by the county Office of Economic Development prompted county officials to say Monday that Kaua‘i is “finally seeing job growth in its long economic recovery.”

The county’s Quarterly Economic Outlook contains the latest indicator data that reflect Kaua‘i’s economic activity through the first quarter of 2012 and forecasts through the third quarter.

“The boom in tourism is restoring jobs that were lost during the recession,” OED Director George Costa said in a press release. “Going forward, there are ample signs that the mostly flat trends we have been seeing will turn up in the quarters just ahead.”

The total job count in the first quarter of this year was 28,100, up 500 from the first quarter of 2011, and this may jump by another 700 jobs in the second quarter of this year as “this long-term trend has turned up sharply,” according to Costa.

He said the jobs count is one of four “key indicators” that have moved back above the level they were in pre-boom 2003. The other three key indicators are income, visitors and electricity purchases, although all four indicators are still below the peak years of 2006-07.

The clear leader, Costa said, is the visitor segment, where all indicators are trending upward sharply, after hitting a “recessionary” low point in the second quarter of 2010.

The average daily visitor count in the second quarter of 2012 is expected be 23,400, which is 14 percent above last year’s second quarter.

The 2012 third-quarter count may actually exceed the peak visitor counts of 2007, according to Costa.

Two other spots are the apparent turnaround in spending and income.

Retail sales in second quarter of 2012 should be up 9 percent from 2011 levels, after adjusting for inflation, and income will likely be 22 percent above last year’s second-quarter low point, according to Costa.

The number counted as unemployed has also decreased over the past year. The 2,700 unemployed in the second quarter of 2012 will be down 300 from the same period last year, and should drop by another 100 by the third quarter of 2012.

“The upturn in electricity demand is potentially disappointing news,” said Island Matters economist Ken Stokes, who compiled the data for the report. “After staying fairly flat since (the first quarter of 2011), the trend is turning up again. Demand in (the third quarter of 2012) should be 1.8 percent above last year and 5 percent above the baseline 2003 levels.”

Meanwhile, the trend in gasoline purchases has turned back up, and the 2012 second-quarter demand should be 22 percent above the same period last year.

Home sales and building permits are still near their historical lows, although inflation-adjusted real estate revenues in the first quarter of 2012 were up 7 percent from last year, and should hold steady through the third quarter, and the trend in construction activity has turned up.

Per-person, per-day visitor spending is roughly the same as last year, with the average in the second quarter of 2012 being around $160.

The average visitor’s length-of-stay is up slightly at 7.82 days versus 7.79 last year.

Passenger counts on direct flights are also trending up again after holding at 28,400 for the last two quarters.

Visit www.kauai.gov for more complete details of the report.

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