Population on Oahu down, up on other isles
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More people are leaving Oahu for the mainland and neighbor islands, leading to Honolulu's first population decline in seven years, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
Honolulu City and County's population on July 1, 2007, was 905,601, down by 1,114 people from the year before. But growth on the neighbor islands more than made up for the decrease, and the state's population grew to 1,283,388 last year.
Rebecca Parker, president of M. Dyer and Sons Inc., said the number of people her company has helped move off Oahu was 16 percent greater than the number coming in.
As of July 1
Oahu: 905,601, -0.1 percent
Big Island: 173,057, +2.1 percent
Maui: 141,783, +1 percent
Kauai: 62,828, +1.4 percent
Kalawao (Kalaupapa): 119, -0.8 percent
State population: 1,283,388, +0.4 percent
Source: U.S. Census Bureau estimates
U.S. Census Bureau population estimates confirm what M. Dyer and Sons Inc. President Rebecca Parker is already seeing: More people are leaving Oahu than coming here.
Statewide population growth appears to be slowing in the second half of this decade, according to the Census Bureau estimates.
For the first time in seven years, Honolulu City and County saw a decline in population. But that decline was offset by growth on the neighbor islands, especially the Big Island.
The state averaged 0.9 percent annual population growth from 2000 to 2005, but that rate has slowed to 0.4 percent in the last two years, according to an analysis of the census numbers by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Much of the slowdown can be attributed to migration to the mainland. The state saw 9,673 more people leaving Hawaii for the mainland than moving here, the largest out-migration since 2000.
Parker said her company moved 16 percent more people from Oahu than to Oahu last year, and she expects the trend to continue this year.
"We're seeing a number of the baby boom generation leaving the islands," Parker said.
The main reason is the cost of living, she said. Hawaii retirees are moving, mostly to Oregon and Washington state, where it is cheaper to live.
But Parker's company is also seeing mainland retirees moving to Hawaii, some of them former Hawaii residents who have sold homes on the mainland or who have retired and are moving back to be closer to family and for a better quality of life.
But while people are leaving Oahu, the neighbor islands are continuing to grow.
The Big Island's population is up 16.4 percent since 2000, while Maui saw a 10.7 percent increase and Kauai is up by 7.5 percent.
Oahu remains the state's largest population center, but Honolulu's share of the state's population has decreased to 70.6 percent last year from 74.3 percent in 1990, according to DBEDT.
Bank of Hawaii chief economist Paul Brewbaker said home prices on Oahu, while high, do not appear to be the reason people are leaving.
Brewbaker noted that homes in many places in California are more expensive than Honolulu, and prices for neighbor island homes are also high.
"Oahu has probably the least downward movement in home prices of any metropolitan area in the country," Brewbaker said. "That tells you the underlying economy is fairly resistant."
While the economy is slowing, it has not stopped growing, he said.
"I'm really struck by these (census) numbers. They seem to be out of sync with economic reality," Brewbaker said.
Pearl Imada Iboshi, DBEDT Research and Economic Analysis Division administrator, also said the population numbers seem low.
"It's interesting to me how low the population growth has been and yet we've seen higher rates of growth in terms of jobs," Iboshi said.
Brewbaker speculated that some of the population decrease could be because of military deployments.
He also noted that the movement of people from the mainland to the neighbor islands has created what he calls "a third kind of person in Hawaii."
"You used to be either a kamaaina or a malahini," Brewbaker said. Now, he said, a number of new housing developments are being bought by people who live here part time, some of whom also invest in Hawaii and are starting to become politically active.
"They're not here full time, nor are they tourists," Brewbaker said.
The census also indicates that an average of 4,121 people moved here annually from other countries since 2007.
Parker said she is seeing an increasing number of foreign moves, and not just from Canada and Japan.
"As the dollar continues to erode, they have better buying power," she said. "It puts the U.S. on sale."