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University of Hawaiʻi economist says state economy on the upswing

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A University of Hawaiʻi economist told state lawmakers he’s cautiously optimistic about the future outlook for the state’s economy even though he’s expecting statistics to show thousands of jobs were lost during the recent COVID-19 Delta variant surge.

Dr. Carl Bonham is executive director of the University of Hawaiʻi’s Economic Research Organization, or UHERO.

He told a state House committee Monday that the number of jobs across Hawaiʻi is still badly lagging pre-pandemic times. And he said the expiration of COVID-19-related federal unemployment benefits stands to hit households hard.

Bonham said the cautious reopening of the state is a good start to the recovery.

"These changes mean putting people back to work, Bonham said. "It means people whose hours have been reduced will get them back and people who lost their unemployment benefits will have a much better time finding the work they need."

Bonham says he’s expecting September numbers to show the loss of between 6,000 and 10,000 jobs, on top of losses in August.

Bonham says reopening the state does present the potential for another surge in COVID-19 cases, but if vaccination rates continue to climb and people respect mask and social distancing mandates, that can be avoided.

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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