No change in Delaware’s unemployment rate

DOVER — Delaware’s monthly labor report shows no change in the state’s official unemployment rate, sitting at 5.1 percent in both October and November.

However, while New Castle County’s jobless rate dropped from 5 percent to 4.3 percent, Kent County’s fell from 5.5 percent to 4.7 percent and Sussex County’s saw a slight decrease from 4.9 percent to 4.8 percent, those changes do not translate to the state level.

According to Dr. George Sharpley, that is because the state data is seasonally adjusted and numbers at the county level are not.

Dr. Sharpley, chief of the Delaware Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information, said while many brick-and-mortar stores have for several years hired fewer workers around the holidays, the increase in online shopping offsets that.

“Having the new Amazon facility in Middletown gives Delaware a pretty sizable piece of seasonal hiring there,” he said.

The state’s labor force totaled 468,500 in November, a slight increase from the 466,100 recorded in November. But 23,700 people were not working last month.

Dr. Sharpley said he finds the 5.1 percent rate a little high and expects it to drop over the next few months.

While the U.S. unemployment rate has been declining for more than a year, Delaware’s rate is much more inconsistent.

It dropped from 5.3 percent in November 2014 to 4.5 percent in April before rising again. According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October was the first month in more than a decade the state’s unemployment rate was higher than the nation’s, a trend that continued into November.

The United States has posted an official rate of 5 percent unemployment for the past two months.

However, that dip and spike in the graph largely could be ironed out when the bureau adjusts the data, Dr. Sharpley said.

“I also would not be surprised at all if, when the annual data is revised here in the next couple of months, that kind of disappears like it had the last two years,” he said.

He described himself as “pretty confident we’re not seeing a deterioration in the economy.”

While Dover’s unemployment fell more than 1 percent, the capital continues to lag behind the state at large. It currently sits at 5.8 percent.

Cities tend to post higher rates because many jobs have moved to the suburbs in recent years, Dr. Sharpley said.

“There are a lot more people in urban areas than jobs readily available,” he said.

The capital is in better condition than Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware.

Many of Delaware’s industries have seen gains in the past year, led by leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services.

The monthly report also highlights the disparity in workers with college degrees and those without. For the past year, the unemployment level for an individual with at least a bachelor’s degree is 2.5 percent. For people with just a high school diploma, it is 5 percent.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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