Some good news in job data: Del. saw slight gain in 2017

DOVER — Rumors of Delaware’s economic demise have been slightly exaggerated.

Revisions in the state’s unemployment data show the state gained 2,900 jobs in 2017, compared to the prior estimate of zero change.

For the third month in a row, Delaware’s unemployment rate fell by a tenth of a percent. It now sits at 4.2 percent, although that remains behind the national average, which declined to 3.9 percent last month — the lowest since 2000.

“The payroll data that finally came through for the end of 2017 show the economy, job growth did slow toward the end of last year, but it didn’t stop like the original estimates had indicated,” George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information, said Friday.

The estimates are calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Delaware Department of Labor based on surveys sent to businesses and are later modified as payroll data is received by the government.

The state and national unemployment rates were 4.6 and 4.4 percent, respectively, in April 2017. Before March 2017, Delaware’s unemployment rate had been better than the national average for more than a decade.

Kent County — and in particular Dover — continues to lag behind the rest of the state, with Kent posting an unemployment rate of 4 percent, while 5 percent of people in Dover were out of work. Those numbers, unlike the statewide rate, are not seasonally adjusted, however.

Over the past 12 months, the transportation/utilities and professional/business services fields have seen a gain of 4,000 jobs, although Dr. Sharpley said those figures are skewed by a change in how Amazon, which has a warehouse in Middletown, is classified.

He expects the national unemployment rate will soon plateau, allowing Delaware to catch up.

“Right now, we’re kind of moving largely in the same trend as them, it’s just we’ve been half a point or so above them,” he said.

Overall, the data released Friday is good news, but Dr. Sharpley cautioned it should not be read as a sign the Delaware economy is booming.

“The economy is kind of tepid,” he said. “It’s not great, it’s not bad, but it didn’t slow down as much as we previously thought. We’re just kind of muddling along.”

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

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