Delaware unemployment rate falls to lowest level in nearly 11 years

DOVER — Two months after it diverged from the national average, Delaware’s unemployment rate fell again.

Data released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor indicates the First State’s unemployment rate for November was 3.8 percent, just above the national figure of 3.7 percent.

The rate for the country at large has remained static for three months, while Delaware’s is at its lowest level in nearly 11 years.

“I would expect this unemployment rate to probably continue falling” and possibly pass the national figure, said George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information in the Department of Labor.

Except for June, July and August of this year, the First State has had a greater percentage of people out of work than the country as a whole every month for the past 21 months. Before March 2017, Delaware’s unemployment rate remained lower than the country’s overall mark for more than 10 years.

The national figure of 3.7 percent unemployment is the best the United States has seen in 49 years.

According to Dr. Sharpley, the Delaware unemployment rate could slip under 3.5 percent, which it hasn’t done since September 2007.

“Much below that, I’d be surprised, especially since there are some definite signs of slowing at the national level,” he said, pointing to slowed gross domestic product growth as well as continued trade disputes between the United States and China.

Two of Delaware’s three counties saw big drops in unemployment from October to November, with New Castle falling from 3.5 to 2.8 percent and Kent going from 3.8 to 3.1 percent. Sussex had a more modest decrease, from 3.5 to 3.3 percent.

However, the change is largely driven by differences in how the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics makes seasonal adjustments, Dr. Sharpley said. The county rates are not seasonally adjusted.

Delaware gained an estimated 7,200 jobs from November 2017 to November 2018.

The labor report notes the state’s minimum wage will rise from $8.25 to $8.75 on Jan. 1 and estimates about 13,000 workers in the state currently earn minimum wage, although that tally does not include students, agricultural workers or the self-employed.

While saying he hadn’t yet studied the data, Dr. Sharpley expressed doubts Delaware’s job numbers would be impacted by the increase.

Jan. 1 will also see the start of a training/youth wage, which will allow employers to pay workers under 18 or those in their first three months on the job up to 50 cents less than the minimum wage.

The state’s wage floor will increase again on Oct. 1, climbing to $9.25.


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