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Delaware unemployment falls but national gap widens

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate ticked down 20 more basis points in November and gained about 1,100 jobs, but the gap between the state’s rate and the national average continues to widen, according to state officials.

November’s job growth continues a two-month increase, while 600 more people joined the state’s labor force – setting a new record high, 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. When 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.

Delaware’s October unemployment rate of 5.1% was significantly higher than the national average, which sat at 4.2% last month. The gap widened by another 20 basis points between months, and Delaware is now tied for 33rd overall among states in its unemployment rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nebraska was the lowest last month at 1.8% while California was the highest at 6.9%.

New weekly unemployment claims in the First State totaled 405 in the week ending Dec. 11, virtually the same as the month prior. Fewer than 4,200 people continue to receive assistance though, among the fewest since the pandemic set in in earnest. The number of recipients fell steeply in September after the federal government’s added benefits expired and renewed work-search requirements have taken hold.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report, which is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day, showed that 25,200 workers were unemployed, a decrease of 600 over October.

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.

Nearly 269,000 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-21-month-long pandemic, state and federal unemployment assistance has paid more than $1.47 billion to Delaware residents.

The state’s three counties saw differing rates of unemployment in October, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 3.9%, 4.5% and 3.8%, respectively – although those statistics aren’t seasonally adjusted. Wilmington and Dover, the state’s two most populous cities, have seen an even greater impact in job losses, where 5.5% and 5.8% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job gains came in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 1,500 jobs. The construction, financial services, and unsorted industries all added 200 jobs last month, with retail adding another 100 jobs.

Leading job losses was the transportation and utilities subsector, which lost 600 jobs. The professional and business services sector lost 400 jobs while education and health lost 100.

Year over year, employment is up 10,800 jobs, with every sector seeing growth except professional and business services, which is still down 1,100 jobs, and manufacturing, which is down 400.

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