State jobless rate falls for 3rd straight month

DOVER — Delaware’s unemployment rate fell to 3.3 percent in March, the best mark in nearly 12 years.

The rate decreased for the third month in a row and is now tied for the lowest mark in the past 30 years, according to data released Monday by the Delaware Department of Labor.

“It’s mostly a continuation of what we’ve been seeing,” said George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information in the Department of Labor.

While the state’s unemployment rate appeared to be worse than the national figure for most of 2018 (data indicated the United States had a smaller percentage of people out of work than Delaware nine out of the 12 months of the year), a revision earlier this year changed that. With updated information, officials have determined Delaware was either tied with or had a lower rate than the nation as a whole for every month of 2018.

Monday’s numbers contained more good news for Delaware, with unemployment here dropping from 3.4 to 3.3 percent from February to March.

Nationally, the percentage of people out of work remained at 3.8 percent.

Delaware last had 3.3 percent unemployment in July 2007. Starting in October that year, the unemployment rate climbed 22 months in a row as the nation entered and suffered through the Great Recession.

Before July 2007, Delaware’s unemployment rate had been above 3.3 percent for six years.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the First State’s March unemployment level was most recently surpassed 30 years ago.

March 1989 would prove to be the end of a period of tremendous job growth. Counting that month, the unemployment rate had been better than 3.3 percent 25 times in the prior 27 months, but just two years later, 6.8 percent of Delawareans were out of work.

Only time will tell what follows the long economic recovery the United States has been in since the Great Recession ended at the start of the decade.

While the job numbers are good news for Delawareans, Dr. Sharpley cautions against assuming they’ll continue to fall, both because many experts believe an economic downturn is overdue and because the unemployment rate is initially based off a BLS model and is later amended.

“It is unlikely Delaware’s unemployment will dip below 3.0 percent, but even if it does it may well be fleeting, only lasting until the data are revised next year,” Dr. Sharpley wrote in a commentary released with the data Monday.

Locally, unemployment fell in all three counties in March, hitting 3 percent in New Castle, 3.5 percent in Kent and 3.6 percent in Sussex. However, unlike the state’s rate, the county figures are not seasonally adjusted.

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

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