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Delaware unemployment rate inches down in August

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate continued to inch down 20 more basis points in August, with the state adding jobs in every sector but retail and utilities, according to state officials.

The state added 800 net jobs last month, adding to the gain of more than 6,000 over the preceding two months, although it saw a loss of 100 workers from the labor force, its first reduction in several months, according to the monthly report released Friday morning.

The labor force captures not only workers and those receiving unemployment benefits, but also those in search of work who aren’t receiving assistance. As workers stop seeking work, for a variety of reasons ranging from retirement to childcare, they are no longer counted as being unemployed in the state. The fall in the labor force may be a sign that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is stalling, with more potential workers choosing not to pursue employment right now.

Delaware’s August unemployment rate of 5.4% continued for the second consecutive month to sit just above the national average, which sat at 5.2% last month. New weekly unemployment claims in the First State rose to 961 in the week ending Sept. 11, nearly doubling the weekly number reported exactly a month prior, another sign that the recovery could be stalling. Fewer than 10,000 people continue to receive assistance though, the lowest rate since the pandemic set in earnest.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report, which is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day, showed that 26,400 workers were unemployed, a decrease of 900 over July.

The official monthly unemployment figure is created by looking at continuous unemployment insurance claims as well as a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of residents on their employment status. It tracks not only those receiving benefits, but also those who are ineligible, such as terminated employees, those who have resigned and the self-employed, who only became eligible for assistance under a special federal program established under the CARES Act.

More than 262,000 state workers have filed for unemployment assistance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a variety of state and federal programs have tried to help offset some of their losses. Over the now-18-month-long pandemic, state and federal unemployment assistance has paid more than $1.44 billion to Delaware residents.

The state’s three counties saw differing rates of unemployment in June, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 5.5%, 6.3% and 4.3%, respectively – although those statistics aren’t seasonally adjusted, which impacts tourism-based growth in coastal destinations. Wilmington and Dover, the state’s two most populous cities, have seen an even greater impact in job losses, where 8.3% and 8.6% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job gains came from the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 800 jobs, and the professional and business sector, which added 400 jobs. Both construction and education and health added 300 jobs each, while financial activities also added 100 jobs.

The trade, transportation and utilities sector was the only one to report losses last month, shedding 1,000 jobs statewide, while unsorted industries lost an additional 100 jobs.

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