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Delaware unemployment rate flat to start 2022

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate remained at 4.8% in January, while losing net 200 jobs to start 2022, according to state officials.

January’s job losses broke a three-month streak of gains, while 1,200 more people joined the state’s labor force – pushing further 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. 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 adjusted December unemployment rate of 4.8% was significantly higher than the national average, which fell 30 basis points to 3.9% last month. The gap closed slightly in January though, as the national average rose to 4% while Delaware remained unchanged at 23,900 unemployed people.

In June, Delaware’s rate was lower than the national average, but the state has since steadily fallen behind in its recovery. Its ranking among states was not available Friday, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is still collecting data from other states.

Delaware’s employment picture may currently be rosier than the January numbers suggest, as the workforce was then in a state of flux amid the spread of the omicron variant. The Delaware Department of Labor’s report is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day. The January report is always delayed by a month as labor officials concurrently work on the year-end jobs report.

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.

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 January, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 5%, 5.8% and 5.3%, 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 6.9% and 7.9% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job gains came in the retail trade subsector, which added 600 jobs in January. Financial activities also added 100 jobs, while unsorted sectors added 200.

Leading job losses was the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 600 jobs, essentially giving up its gains from the month prior. The education and health sector also lost 300 jobs while the government shed 200.

The state’s February jobs report is due out next week as labor officials catch up.

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