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Economic Currents

Keep up to date with the latest UHERO news.

UHERO 101.9: Who's hiring? Who knows!

Posted October 10, 2013 | Categories: Blog

Beginning in July 2013, the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) discontinued the regular monthly publication of industry payroll job counts for Kauai County, Maui County, and Hawaii County citing budgetary constraints. These statistics provided the most comprehensive and timely assessment of labor market conditions and served as an indicator of broader economic activity in each county. There are no alternative sources for this timely measure of our county economies. The loss of this data will negatively affect a number of stakeholders across the state.

The regular publication of industry payroll job counts is a valuable service to individuals and private business as well as policy makers. Imagine how hard it will be to evaluate the impact of the next shock such as a natural disaster, loss of an airline, or terrorist event. Of course, the jobs data are also crucial to understanding the evolution of the county economies during positive times. By identifying which industries are hiring and which are not, job seekers can concentrate their search in the fastest growing industries and students can make better choices on courses of study and training. Firms can use these figures to determine which industries are growing and which are shrinking, allowing them to assess business conditions among their suppliers, competitors, and customers. For policy makers these statistics are valuable for assessing economic conditions in real-time and evaluating the effects of new programs. With the termination of the industry payroll job counts, it will become increasingly difficult for private and public sector decision makers to make informed, data-driven decisions.

The discontinuation of these statistics comes at an especially unfortunate time as many federal statistical agencies are also ending publication of data as the result of the federal sequestration. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has recently announced that it is being forced to scale back its county level personal income statistics program. It remains to be seen what other data publications will be discontinued by federal agencies. These cuts together with the loss of industry payroll job counts will leave the public with precious little information that can be used to measure economic conditions on the Neighbor Islands.

At UHERO we believe that collecting and publishing this data is a valuable public service. If you agree we encourage you to contact your representatives at the State Legislature. Let them know about the value of these statistics and the serious data problem facing Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii counties. With your help we hope that funding will be reallocated so that DLIR can resume their work to collect and publish industry payroll job counts for all the counties in the state.

---Carl Bonham and James Jones


Now and Later: The Impact of the Government Shutdown

Posted October 9, 2013 | Categories: Blog

There are about 34,000 civilian federal jobs in Hawaii, a fraction of which were deemed essential and have therefore not been furloughed. Many of the 18,000 Department of Defense employees were ordered back on the job after the first week of the shutdown, and they are expected to be paid on time. Moreover, the House unanimously passed legislation to guarantee retroactive pay for all furloughed federal employees when the shutdown ends. But the effect of the shutdown goes beyond some delayed paychecks. Among others, it cuts into the income of many government contractors, hampers the investigation of the molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor, and leaves all seven national parks in the state closed, souring the mood of many visitors and ceasing the revenue stream to hundreds of tourism- dependent businesses.

In fact, consumer confidence has taken a nosedive since the first day of the shutdown, and if this decline persists, it may have a greater effect than lost/delayed income. In times of uncertainty people tend to cut back on discretionary spending such as leisure travel. Even if many would-be visitors end up eventually booking their trip to Hawaii, it may take a while before they do so. People also tend to put on hold the purchase of big ticket items and homes during uncertain times. The impact of the shutdown gets magnified as the reluctance to spend filters through the economy. Obviously, the longer the impasse lasts the greater its effects. Unfortunately, given the appetite of this Congress to create artificial crises, we may have to wait for calmer times at least until the next elections.

---Peter Fuleky

 


The UHERO Dashboard Project Jobs Explorer : Occupations in Hawaii

Posted October 8, 2013 | Categories: Blog

The Hawaii Jobs Explorer, the first interactive tool to be released as a part of the ongoing UHERO Dashboard Project, is now available for public use. The Hawaii Jobs Explorer is a thorough examination of occupations and salaries in the state of Hawaii, presented in a visual, easy-to-navigate context. The data-rich design allows users to explore multiple facets of the occupations data, including median salaries, number of jobs, and percentage of statewide employment as well as allowing them to compare both individual occupations and broad occupation categories.

 
ABOUT THE VISUALIZATION:

The Hawaii Jobs Explorer was designed and developed by UHERO’s data team using d3.js technology. The occupations are presented as a “Treemap”, a type of graphic that subdivides an area into smaller areas that illustrate relative proportions.

 

ABOUT THE DASHBOARD PROJECT:

The UHERO Dashboard Project, initially a series of static visualizations released during the summer of 2013, was launched on Facebook to encourage feedback from the community. The “Occupations by Median Annual Salary” was selected as the starting point for the inaugural interactive tool because of its popularity, wide-reaching relevance, and success in stimulating discussion on the Facebook discussion forum.
 
The goal of the UHERO Dashboard Project is to produce a collection of indicators and visualizations that not only summarize the status of Hawaii’s economy, but update the community on the features of the economy that are relevant to them.

 
ABOUT THE DATA:

Data for The Hawaii Jobs Explorer was drawn from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, which produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas; national occupation estimates for specific industries are also available.
The State Occupational and Wage Estimates for Hawaii were calculated with data collected from employers of all industry sectors in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in Hawaii.

 

View the Jobs Explorer


Investigating the Effects of Furloughing Public School Teachers on Juvenile Crime in Hawaii

Posted October 1, 2013 | Categories: Hawaii's Economy, Blog

What happens to crime when 180,000 DOE students and all of their teachers are given the day off? When a fiscal crisis led to 17 "Furlough Fridays" during the 2009/2010 school year, we found ourselves in a unique position to find out. While it is tempting to imagine streets being flooded with idle teenagers up to no good, a new UHERO working paper titled "In School and Out of Trouble? Investigating the Effects of Furloughing Public School Teachers on Juvenile Crime in Hawaii" suggests the contrary.

The authors, Randall Akee (an assistant professor at UCLA), Timothy Halliday (an associate professor at UH-Manoa) and Sally Kwak (an economist at the US Congress Joint Committee on Taxation), used juvenile arrest data from the Honolulu Police Department to investigate the effects of this unusual policy on juvenile crime. Using such a policy to test the effects of shortening the school year on crime is an example of what economists call a "natural experiment;" an observational study that allows researchers to ascertain causal relationships without using a randomized trial.

Contrary to what many would have predicted, their results indicate that the furloughs were associated with fewer juvenile assault arrests for assault and drug-related crimes. Over the course of the entire academic year, there were 20 fewer arrests for assault and 15 fewer arrests for drug offenses due to the furloughs. These reductions are larger than effects produced from national studies. It is hard to say exactly why this is but the authors speculate that, since 1 in 5 students in Hawaii are in private schools, the average socioeconomic status of families who do send their children to public schools may be lower than elsewhere which may enhance the ability of school to facilitate rather than prevent crime.

Spatial differences were also identified. Assaults went down more than drug-related crimes in Leeward and Central Oahu, while drug-related crimes were reduced more than assaults in Metro and Windward Oahu. The authors attribute the reduction in crime to two factors. The first is a lack of "concentration" allowing for less opportunity to engage in criminal activity, and the second is possibly increased monitoring by parents that may have happened since parents were told about the furloughs in advance and 13 of the 17 DOE furlough days coincided with furloughs for state employees. The "concentration" effect was more prominent in Leeward and Central Oahu resulting in fewer assaults, while the monitoring effect may have been more prominent in Metropolitan and Windward Oahu where more affluent parents may have been better able to plan ahead to spend the day with their children or to arrange for a paid alternative activity.

It would be flippant to say that school should be canceled as a means of crime prevention, but the overall reduction in crime should encourage decision-makers to think harder about how to minimize crime while school is in session.

---Tim Halliday

READ THE WORKING PAPER


Hawaii's Energy Future

Last week's Asia Pacific Clean Energy Conference has focused the spotlight on Hawaii's energy future. Governor Abercrombie opened the conference with a strong commitment to installing an undersea cable between Oahu and Maui. The Blue Planet foundation unveiled their "Energy Report Card" during a keynote address by Henk Rogers. Meanwhile, recent coverage by NPR discussed switching to natural gas as an alternative to Hawaii's oil dependence. 

The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative set the vision for the state to move toward renewable and cleaner sources of energy. There are numerous pathways and decision on the best pathway is fraught with debate.

The Governor's comments juxtaposed to strong resistance to the undersea cable suggests that there needs to be on-going discussion of what energy portfolios will likely emerge in separated versus linked islands scenarios - including environmental and economic impacts.

Moreover, there is also concern over the high cost of energy. As many renewable sources are still relatively costly (or difficult to locate) there is also consideration of switching to natural gas as a "bridge fuel." The future price of liquefied natural gas is uncertain and, while it is cleaner burning than oil, there is concern that its full environmental impact is not necessarily an improvement over the status quo.

In addition, environmental groups such as Blue Planet in their "energy report card" bring up concerns about the lack of guiding policy for the transportation sector. Policies that complement transportation as well as electricity have a place in the discussion as well.

UHERO's ongoing research is looking at ways to cost-effectively achieve GHG reduction and meet the state's clean energy goals.

---Makena Coffman


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