Delaware unemployment continues to fall

DOVER — Two surveys show Delaware saw job growth over the past year that has been barely matched in more than 15 years, but payroll data paints a slightly less optimistic picture, according to information released Friday by the Department of Labor.

According to a survey of businesses, the state gained 15,700 jobs from April 2015 to April 2016, while a report on households shows 20,300 more Delawareans are employed.

Payroll data, which is more comprehensive, indicates the state gained 7,600 jobs in 2015, with a slowdown in hiring in the fourth quarter of the year.

Dr. George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information, said it currently is not known whether that more stagnant growth is temporary or the start of a new trend. Payroll data for the first quarter of 2016 will not be finished for several months, meaning uncertainty will exist until that point.

“The main takeaway is the economy is still growing strongly. It’s just is it growing really, really strongly or just pretty strongly?” he said.

The state posted an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in April, down .2 percent from March and .8 percent from the national rate. It has fallen .7 percent since December, although the numbers may be revised in 2017 once more complete results come in.

Delaware’s unemployment mark was 4.9 percent in April 2015.

In total, 461,900 Delawareans are employed.

New Castle County once again remains ahead of Kent and Sussex, with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent. Sussex comes in second at 4.1 percent, and Kent brings up the rear at 4.3 percent, although the county figures are not seasonally adjusted.

Over the past year, the state has seen a minor boom in the fields of professional and business services, education and health, and leisure and hospitality. Those industries have combined to gain 11,500 jobs, which makes up nearly three-quarters of the total job growth over that period.

Delaware’s solid unemployment rate in comparison to the nationwide figure may be due to struggles in the energy sector, Dr. Sharpley said.

While the oil industry was booming a few years ago, low prices have led to layoffs in some states. Because Delaware does not have a sizable oil or gas industry, it has not had to worry about consequences resulting from the slacking off there, he said.

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