State’s jobless rate drops slightly for second month


DOVER — The state Department of Labor’s monthly report for March shows the unemployment rate in the state dropped from 4.4 percent to 4.3.

This is the second consecutive month the report shows a one-tenth of a percentage point drop after remaining stagnant at 4.5 percent for five straight months.

However, Delaware’s rate is still tracking behind the national unemployment rate which has rested at 4.1 percent for the past six months.

The report shows the biggest gains since this time last year have been in the transport and utilities industry and professional and business service field — both gaining about 1,400 jobs.

The biggest losses were in the leisure and hospitality industry where there are 1,200 fewer jobs.

The report notes that according to averages over the past 12 months, the median duration of unemployment is now 11.4 weeks.

Also, 14.3 percent of the state’s unemployed are voluntary job leavers.

In 2012, when the economy was still emerging from the recession, it took the average job seeker 23.4 weeks to find work.

Only 7.3 percent of the unemployed left their jobs voluntarily, says the report.

“As the unemployment rate falls, the re-entry of people who previously left the labor force has been pointed to as a way of maintaining economic growth” the report stated. “This is possible, though skills do erode, but there are few signs that it is currently happening.

“Over the past 12 months, about one-third of the unemployed (7,100 people) were re-entrants, with about half having been out of the workforce for over a year. This total is roughly unchanged since the recession, and is offset by a clear drop in new entrants to the labor force.

“After a steady 2,600 or better average per month since 2012, the number of Delawareans seeking their first job has dropped in each of last two years; it is now down to 1,500 per month over the last year.”

While state economist Dr. George Sharpley says the report is undoubtedly “good news,” he urges caution in putting too much faith in the results.

“I don’t really buy the sudden increase in jobs, I think it’s exaggerated by some factors,” he said. “I agree that we’re probably adding jobs, but I think the speed may be overstated. Part of it is in state government jobs — up 700 over the year. A lot of this can come from having difficulty seasonally adjusting for universities that hire a lot of student employees when school is in session that won’t continue in those position when school lets out. That creates some fluctuations.”

Dr. Sharpley said he puts far more stock in “payroll data” which can often get less attention because the reporting of it lags behind.

“In the next few days we’ll just be getting out the payroll data for the last quarter of 2017,” he said. “So we won’t have March’s payroll data until sometime in August.”

Nevertheless, Dr. Sharpley said the state’s economy is showing signs of modest growth and feels that it’s reasonable to expect more good news later in the year.

“Largely, it’s a good report, and the economy is growing but I wouldn’t say it’s as gang busters as the report makes it seem,” he said. “But, it wouldn’t surprise me that if by the end of the year we’re seeing 12-month real job gains of 3-4,000, but I don’t think we’re there just yet.”

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