Unemployment keeps dropping in Delaware, hitting 5.1% for November

DOVER — Delaware’s unemployment rate fell for the sixth consecutive month but still remains more than a full percentage point above where it stood this time last year.

Data released by the state Department of Labor on Friday indicates the jobless rate decreased from 5.6% to 5.1% from October to November. Nationally, the gains were smaller, with the percentage of people out of work decreasing from 6.9 to 6.7.

It’s been a wild year, with COVID-19 driving unprecedented spikes and dips in unemployment. At the beginning of the year, 4% of the Delaware labor force was out of work, a rate that decreased to 3.9% in February before climbing to 5.1% in March. That increase represented the state’s largest month-to-month jump since September 1990, but things were just getting started: Unemployment skyrocketed to 14.9% in April, peaking at 15.9% a month later.

The rate has now fallen in each of the past six months.

Nationally, the situation is similar, with unemployment leaping from 4.4% in March to 14.7% in April.

In November 2019, back when the prospect of a global pandemic seemed out of reach, 3.5% of Americans and 4% of Delawareans were out of work.

Delaware’s first coronavirus case was announced March 11, and businesses were under serious restrictions by the end of the month, with residents urged to remain home.

Prior to 2020, Delaware’s highest unemployment on record was 9.8% in 1976, the first year relevant job data is available. Similarly, before the pandemic, Delaware had never seen its jobless rate improve by more than 0.3% in a single month.

During the Great Recession, its worst point was 8.8%, coming in January 2010.

Nationally, the early months of the pandemic saw unemployment reach levels not matched since the Great Depression.

The state has lost about 37,600 jobs over the past 12 months, with nearly half of those in the fields of leisure and hospitality or education and health. Despite — or perhaps because of — that figure, Delaware’s private-sector weekly earnings for November averaged $964.87, a $65 increase from one year ago.

October marked the first time the First State’s unemployment level was better than the nation’s as a whole since March 2019.

Locally, New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reported unemployment of 4.8%, 5% and 4.1%, respectively. However, unlike the state data, the county figures are not seasonally adjusted.