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Delaware unemployment rate remains flat in February

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate remained relatively flat for the second consecutive month in February, rising from an adjusted 6.1% in January to 6.3%, according to state officials.

The state saw a few other positive factors in the monthly report released Friday morning, however, including the addition of 200 net jobs while the labor force added 1,500 people atop January’s gain of 5,200. The rise in the number of available workers to start to 2021 broke the streak of five consecutive months of labor force decreases after setting a record high in July.

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 rise in the labor force is a sign that as the pandemic’s effects are easing, more people may be preparing to re-enter the workforce as opportunity allows.

Delaware’s January unemployment rate of 6.3% marks the first time in several months, however, that the state’s rate was above the national average, which sat at 6.2% last month. New weekly unemployment claims in the First State remain flat at around 1,500 in the week ending March 20, but more than 26,000 people continue to receive assistance.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report, which is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day, showed that 31,000 workers were unemployed, an increase of 1,500 since January.

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 194,000 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-yearlong pandemic, state and federal unemployment assistance has paid more than $1.1 billion to Delaware residents.

The state’s three counties saw similar rates of unemployment in January with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 6.5%, 7.5% and 6.5%, 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 10.7% and 10.4% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job gain came from the retail trade sector, which added 400 jobs in January, followed by professional and business services, which added 300 jobs. Government also added 300 jobs while construction added 100 jobs.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues that have been battered by the months-long closures, saw the biggest monthly loss at 600 jobs in February after adding 400 to start the year.

The financial activities sector lost 100 jobs along with the education and health, transportation and utilities, and assorted other service sectors.

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