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Delaware unemployment inches down in February

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate inched down 20 basis points in February, while adding 1,300 net jobs, according to state officials.

February’s job gains make up for the small loss of 200 jobs in January, but the state did not record any change in its record-high labor force, 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 child care, they are no longer counted as being unemployed in the state.

Delaware’s February unemployment rate of 4.6% was still significantly higher than the national average, which also fell 20 basis points to 3.8% last month.

In June, Delaware’s rate was lower than the national average, but the state has since steadily fallen behind in its recovery. It ranked 37th in unemployment rate among states in February, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It was tied with New Jersey, but ahead of both Maryland and Pennsylvania, which reported 5% and 5.1% unemployment rates, respectively. Nebraska and Utah were tied at the lowest rate of 2.1%, while New Mexico had the highest at 5.6%.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day. The state recorded 23,000 unemployed last month, a decrease of 900 people over January’s adjusted figures.

New weekly unemployment claims in the First State totaled only 289 in the week ending March 15. More than 4,300 people continue to receive assistance, one of the lowest totals since the pandemic began, suggesting improving figures may be coming in the February and March unemployment reports. Delaware is no longer reporting weekly unemployment claim data, returning to a pre-pandemic norm.

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 274,000 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-two-year-long pandemic, state and federal unemployment assistance has paid more than $1.485 billion to Delaware residents.

The state’s three counties saw differing rates of unemployment in February, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 4.5%, 5.2% and 4.7%, 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 6.3% and 6.6% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job gains came in the professional and business services sector, which added 800 jobs. Construction added 400 jobs, while Education and health added 200 and manufacturing added 200 as well.

Leading job losses was the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 200 jobs, adding to a loss of 600 in the month prior. Unsorted industries also lost another 100.

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