Delaware unemployment rate now lower than nation’s

DOVER — Delaware’s economy ended 2018 in a strong way, with unemployment hitting its lowest level in 11 years, according to data from the Delaware Department of Labor.

Released Friday, the numbers indicate the state’s unemployment rate fell from 3.8 to 3.7 percent, while the national mark climbed from 3.7 to 3.9 percent.

Except for June, July, August and now December of last 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 22 months.

Before March 2017, Delaware’s unemployment rate remained lower than the country’s overall mark for more than 10 years.

Delaware’s unemployment rate hovered at either 4.5 or 4.6 percent every month in 2016 and 2017 but began falling last spring. Although it fluctuated throughout 2018, the rate still remained better than any single month since the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate in each of the state’s three counties was down at least 1 percent from December 2017 to December 2018, though the Department of Labor cautions the county figures are not seasonally adjusted.

However, the picture may not be quite as rosy as it appears.

“There is reason to believe that the upcoming data revisions will lower the job growth for 2018,” George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information in the Department of Labor, wrote in a brief commentary released with the job statistics.

“The complete payroll reports, which … the benchmark job estimates are revised to, have not shown the same strong growth as the December survey estimates. The payroll data show average 12-month gains of 5,000 jobs for the first nine months of 2018. That slowed to less than 3,000 in the month of September.

“The full-year payroll data won’t come out until the spring; for now the bottom line is that Delaware’s economy had a good year, but maybe not quite as good as the December estimates portray.”

According to the data, four fields — professional and businesses services, education and health, leisure and hospitality, and construction — made up 77 percent of job growth in 2018.

The First State added close to 10,000 jobs in each of 2013, 2014 and 2015 but then saw its economy slow, with 2016 and 2017 combined failing to total 10,000 new jobs.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, Delaware’s .3 percent drop in unemployment in the third quarter of 2018 was tied with three other states for the largest decrease.

The national figure of 3.7 percent unemployment achieved in September and November was the best Americans had seen since 1969.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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