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Big Isle leads state
State economist Pearl Imada-Iboshi said people are drawn to the Big Island, and to a smaller degree to the other neighbor islands, by the lifestyle and relatively low cost of housing.
State data indicate many of the people moving to the Big Island from other islands and the mainland are retirees.
Imada-Iboshi, who grew up in Keaau, Hawaii, said she sees the growth every time she returns home.
"There are so many houses in areas where when I was growing up, there was just grass," she said.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said the population increase is both good and bad for his county.
The increase has helped the economy grow, especially in the construction industry. But it has also strained county resources and is leading to a serious markup in the cost of housing.
"There's a tremendous inflation of properties and lifestyle," he said. "More and more people are realizing certain areas are out of reach."
There were 20,000 more vehicles registered on the Big Island last year, Kim said, a symptom of the increased traffic congestion, especially in Kona and the Kohala and Puna areas.
The large influx of retirees has also highlighted a lack of assisted-living facilities on the island. "In time we have to address that problem," he said.
Honolulu, with a total population of 899,593 residents on July 1, slipped three spots to rank as the 50th most populous county in the nation.
The total state population grew 1.1 percent from 2003 to 2004 to 1,262,840, an increase of 14,085. Hawaii's slower growth rate dropped it out of the top 10 fastest-growing states in the nation.