State unemployment rate sees small improvement but remains behind nation

DOVER — Delaware’s unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percent to 3.9 percent from September to October, but it remains worse than the national rate, according to data released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor.

Except for June, July and August of this 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 20 months.

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

The national figure of 3.7 percent is the best the United States has seen in 49 years.

Delaware remains in the “Goldilocks zone,” said George Sharpley, chief of the Office of Occupational and Labor Market Information in the Department of Labor.

“Overall, I’d say the economy continues to be pretty good, not great and certainly not deteriorating,” he said.

Recently published payroll data indicates the state gained 6,833 jobs from the second quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2018. The unemployment rate is an estimate based off employer surveys, while the payroll data is considered more accurate.

However, they measure different things: Unemployment rate is the percentage of Delawareans not working, while payroll data indicates the number of jobs in Delaware. The two don’t perfectly align because of people who work out of state or have multiple jobs.

The gain in jobs amounts to an increase of about 1.5 percent. Wages went up 1.3 percent, which is slightly below inflation, Dr. Sharpley noted.

About half of those new jobs came in two fields, accommodation and food services as well as manufacturing.

At the county level, Kent continues to lag behind New Castle and Sussex in unemployment, although county data is not seasonally adjusted.

Should the United States unemployment level remain below 4 percent, Dr. Sharpley is unsure the First State will catch up.

The state’s all-time record for lowest unemployment (since detailed record-keeping began in 1976, at least) is 3 percent, last achieved in September 1987, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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