Hawaii tourism

Hawaii’s tourism sector’s long road back to normal

Hawaii’s all-important tourism sector is rebounding, but the state’s exit from its pandemic-sized hole is progressing more slowly.

Why is this important: Hawaii’s tourism-dependent labor market suffered one of the country’s worst hits last year.

  • Its unemployment rate peaked near the highest level of any state. It has since recovered, but remains the highest in the country.

Where is it : Hawaii has the fewest job openings (0.7) per unemployed person in the country, according to data from ZipRecruiter quoted by the Wall Street Journal. (For comparison, there are more than five gigs open per unemployed person in Vermont.)

Background: Friday’s jobs report will be key to the state of the labor market recovery which stalled in April.

  • Economists estimate that jobs jumped noticeably (700,000) towards pre-pandemic employment levels in May. States like Hawaii have a much longer road to travel to get back to normal.

Hawaii recovered among the smallest share of payroll compared to the pre-pandemic period. According to the rating agency Fitch, only New Mexico fared less well.

A bright spot: The total number of domestic airline seats scheduled for Hawaii this month is up 14% from June 2019, according to the State Department for Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), said last week.

  • Yes, but: The recovery in employment is lagging behind the rebound in tourism, according to the University of Hawaii.
  • “Available labor has been reduced by emigration, ongoing virus issues and the need to monitor children until schools reopen,” the researchers wrote last month – noting that the wage bill will not fully recover for several years.

What they say : “We expect the full recovery of our tourism industry to be beyond 2024,” DBEDT Director Mike McCartney said in a statement last week.

  • Blame the slow return of international visitors — who tend to spend more daily on average than Americans, McCartney said.

Go further: Summer travel should be stressful