Big improvement in state’s jobless rate but many still unemployed

DOVER — Both Delaware and the country as a whole are continuing the economic recovery from coronavirus, but the jobless data does offer some good news. According to figures released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware’s unemployment rate fell from 10.5% to 8.9% last month.

In real terms, that means 44,500 members of the Delaware workforce were not employed in August, down from 53,000 the month before (although the total labor force also saw a decrease).

Nationally, the rate slipped from 10.2% to 8.4% in August.

Despite the improvements, we’re still a long way from pre-COVID times: The unemployment rates for the state and nation in August 2019 were 3.9% and 3.7%, respectively.

Delaware saw its unemployment climb from 3.9% in February to 5.1% in March, the largest month-to-month increase since September 1990, before skyrocketing to 14.9% in April. It peaked at 15.9% in May.

Delaware’s first coronavirus case was announced March 11, and businesses were under serious restrictions by the end of the month, with residents urged to remain at home.

During the early months of the pandemic, national unemployment reached levels unseen since the Great Depression.

Prior to this year, the state’s highest unemployment rate on record was 9.8% in 1976, the first year relevant job data is available. During the Great Recession, the First State’s worst point was 8.8%, coming in January 2010.

Similarly, before COVID, Delaware had never seen its jobless rate improve by more than .3% in a single month.

Delaware has lost about 41,300 non-farm jobs over the past 12 months, with around a third of those coming in the fields of leisure and hospitality. Education and health, as well as professional and business services, also saw sizable declines.

Last month’s unemployment rates for New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties, respectively, are 9.4%, 9.8% and 7.6%. Unlike the state rate, the county figures are not seasonally adjusted.

At the state level, the average weekly wage increased from about $916 to $949 from July to August. In August 2019, the average private-sector Delawarean was paid a little more than $886 per week.