Report: Delaware unemployment rate holding at 4.3 percent

DOVER — The unemployment rate in the state is holding steady at 4.3 percent, as it has over the past several months, according to the Dec. 2016 Labor Review released by the Delaware Department of Labor on Friday. The state unemployment rate stayed lower than the national rate every month of 2016. The current national unemployment rate is at 4.7 percent, which is up .1 percent from November.

New Castle County has the lowest unemployment rate at 3.6 percent, and Sussex County has the highest at 4.4 percent — Kent County came in at the middle with a rate of 4 percent.

Comparing the number of unemployed residents of the state to this time last year, the report said that there were 20,300 unemployed Delawareans in Dec. 2016 to 23,000 in Dec. 2015, or an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent.

The data for the entire year of 2016 will soon be collected and will offer a deeper look into trends. Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information chief, Dr. George Sharpley feels that the state has settled into a moderate rate of growth and is likely to continue on its current trajectory.

“Part of that forecast is that the economy is nearing full employment,” he said. “It’s easier to add jobs at a quick pace when you have many more people looking for work. When that is no longer the case, and it isn’t, job growth slows down and becomes more natural.”

Cognizant of the regime change on Friday, Dr. Sharpley said any changes made by President Donald Trump and his administration in the short run aren’t likely to affect the job market quickly.

“The economy just doesn’t move all that fast,” he said. “Any impact of a new administration won’t be felt until toward the end of this year at the earliest.”

Although difficult to track, Dr. Sharpley said that as the economy inches toward full employment, wages tend to follow — which currently seems to be the case in the state and nationally.

The report stated that the two best measures to help gauge wage increases are payroll data from over 30,000 businesses in the state, and the occupational wage survey (pulled from 1,200 businesses each year). For 2015, these measures supplied similar results, showing increases of 1.4 percent (payroll) and 1.7 percent (survey). The wage survey also showed that gains for high-wage occupations have beaten inflation by about 15% over the last 10 years, while real wage gains for low-wage occupations were about zero. Full data for 2016 on wages will be ready soon, but Dr. Sharpley said indications are that overall gains have slowed.

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