Delaware’s jobless rate still worse than US

DOVER — Prior to March, Delaware’s unemployment rate had been better than the national average for more than a decade.

But since then, the jobless rate has been steadily increasing in the state while the U.S. figure has gone in the opposite direction.

Data released Friday by the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information indicates Delaware’s economic slowdown is not over. While the rate remained at 4.9 percent from August to September, the national average decreased to 4.2 percent.

Delaware’s rate is the highest it’s been since May 2015, according to the data.

However, the exact extent of the issue may not be as bad as the numbers indicate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the data, reports with 90 percent confidence Delaware’s unemployment rate is between 4.2 and 5.6 percent.

It’s 90 percent confident the U.S. rate is off by no more than .1 percent, with the large sample size making it easier to determine the rate nationally.

Despite the state-level uncertainty, Delaware “has definitely slowed over the past year,” George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information, said. “That’s unambiguous.”

In September 2016, 4.3 percent of Delawareans were out of work, while 4.9 percent of Americans were not employed. A year later, the situation is reversed.

With 5.1 percent unemployment, Kent continues to lag behind Delaware’s other two counties, although the county numbers are not seasonally adjusted.
Dover’s unemployment was 6.7 percent last month, per the BLS.

The leisure and hospitality and the education and health fields have gained a combined 5,700 jobs over the past 12 months. All other industries are down 2,300 jobs in that time.

Dr. Sharpley said he “is on the fence” about whether the downturn is a blip or a sign of worse things to come nationally.

Delaware, with a population of less than 1 million people, is susceptible to swings in job numbers resulting from decisions made by a few companies. The growth of Amazon’s Middletown facility has slowed, while banks are adding fewer jobs as well, Dr. Sharpley said.

“Even health care, while still the strongest sector in terms of job growth, is not adding jobs at the same pace of two, three, four years ago,” he said.
The numbers will be re-examined and revised at the beginning of 2018, offering a fuller look at the economic picture.

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