Record 30,000 Delawareans find employment in two-year period

DOVER — More than 30,000 Delawareans have become employed over the past two years, a record for a two-year period, according to data published Friday by the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information.

The monthly labor report also revealed Delaware’s unemployment rate saw a slight drop in December, from 5.1 percent the previous month to 5.0 percent.

The rate was at 5.2 percent in December 2014, although the year in-between has seen more variation than might be expected. After dipping down to 4.5 percent in April, unemployment began climbing up, peaking at 5.1 percent in October and November.

“I think the numbers are for the most part pretty solid, especially on the residential side,” said Dr. George Sharpley, chief of the office.

After about 14,500 residents began working in 2014, 15,600 became employed last year, creating a new two-year high.

Delaware passed the pre-recession level about a year ago and has since been adding new jobs, Dr. Sharpley said.

At the county level, New Castle and Kent each saw lower unemployment, while Sussex’ rate rose slightly. At 5.6 percent, Dover’s unemployment remains a full percentage point above Kent’s. However, the local numbers, unlike the statewide ones, are not seasonally adjusted.

Initial figures show the state added 7,300 jobs last year after creating about 12,900 last year. According to payroll data, 10,000 jobs were added as of the third quarter, meaning this year’s estimate is likely to increase once revisions are applied. The updated version will be released in March.

While unemployment is approaching 4.5 percent, the level Dr. Sharpley thinks it will ultimately settle at, earnings have stagnated.

“Jobs are there but the increase in wages you might expect to see at this phase of an economic recovery haven’t materialized,” he said.

The retail sector shows a decrease of 1,500 jobs over the past year, but payroll records tell a different story. As of September, payroll showed about 300 retail jobs have been created, and Dr. Sharpley said that decline should change after the revision.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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