Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Businesses neutral
on Hawaii’s economy

By Rick Daysog

Isle businesses are tempering their expectations of Hawaii's economy, according to a new report by the Bank of Hawaii.

In the bank's semi-annual survey of business confidence in Hawaii, 65.7 percent of the respondents said they expect the local economy to grow or stay the same during the next 12 months.

That compares with findings of a similar poll conducted last July in which 89.3 percent of the participants believed Hawaii's economy would expand or remain level.

"The bottom line is that we are seeing a shift from a slightly more positive outlook a year ago to a more neutral expectation," said Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawaii's chief economist.

But, he said, "Business confidence is still higher than any time during the 1990s stagnation."

Brewbaker noted the new outlook should be seen in the context of the recent slowdown in the national and Hawaii economy.

After several years of 4 percent to 5 percent growth, the U.S. economy grew about 1 percent last year.

The sluggish national economy combined with the continued weak Asian economy has hurt Hawaii's tourism industry, which is coming off its best-ever year in 2000, Brewbaker said

Some 34.4 percent of the survey's respondents believe that Hawaii's economy will shrink this year.

The Bank of Hawaii survey, which is based on responses from about 380 local companies, also found that 42.6 percent of all Hawaii business expect to see higher sales during the next 12 months.

Some 21.8 percent of the survey's participants said they expect to increase the number of employees at their workplaces during the year while 23.5 percent said they expect some form of downsizing at their companies.

More than 70 percent of the poll's participants believe that sales and profits at their companies will improve over the next 12 months.

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