Delaware posts job gain of 11,000 in 2015

DOVER — Delaware gained 11,000 jobs in 2015 and its unemployment rate remained static at 4.9 percent nearly the entire year, new data from the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information indicates.

According to the office, that’s the largest job growth since 1999.

Updated figures published Friday sharpen information first presented in January.

That data showed a gain of 7,300 jobs and a much more inconsistent employment rate.

The new numbers were adjusted using payroll data.

After the change, Delaware stayed below the national unemployment rate the entire year.

“This is like the third year in a row that we’ve seen increasing unemployment that the revision just wipes out,” Dr. George Sharpley, chief of the office, said.

He is a little skeptical of the unemployment rate remaining at 4.9 percent from February to December, believing “the truth is somewhere in between what was reported and this revision.”

In January, the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent for Delaware and 4.9 percent for the United States.

New Castle County leads the way, with unemployment at 4.8 percent. Kent is at 5.3, while Sussex lags behind at 4.7.

However, the county figures are not seasonally adjusted, unlike the state percentages.

Much of the disparity results from there not being an adjustment, Dr. Sharpley said, noting employment differences between counties can also be cyclical.

The warm December allowed some weather-dependent businesses, such as construction and agriculture support, to keep employees, he said.

Among industries, leisure and hospitality is doing well, adding 2,900 jobs in 2015. New restaurants and hotels are opening and hiring workers, and the casinos have seen some stabilization, he said.

Retail is down 600 jobs, according to survey data, but Dr. Sharpley said payroll figures show “modest increases.”

Across all fields, he expects the state to gain about 6,000 to 7,000 jobs in 2016.

After about 14,500 residents began working in 2014, 15,600 became employed last year, creating a new two-year high.

While DuPont’s cut of 1,700 jobs does hurt, “it’s not enough to turn the whole situation into a negative,” he said. The decision to headquarter two of its three spinoff companies in the state is welcome news that will help the state move forward with a strong economy, he believes.

Gov. Jack Markell’s office welcomed the announcement of job growth Friday.

“With the best job growth in the region, it’s clear our state is making progress thanks to our talented workforce and hard-working business community,” spokeswoman Courtney McGregor said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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