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Delaware unemployment rate flat in January

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate was relatively flat in January, rising from an adjusted 5.9% in December to 6% in the first month of 2021, according to state officials.

The state saw a few other positive factors in the monthly report released Friday morning, however, including the addition of 2,200 net jobs and 5,200 people back into the labor force. The rise in the number of available workers 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% marks the fourth time in the pandemic that the state’s rate was below the national average, which sat at 6.3% last month. New weekly unemployment claims in the First State remain flat around 1,700 in the week ending March 6, but more than 27,000 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 29,500 workers were unemployed, an increase of 1,300 from December.

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 191,000 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 6.3%, 7.1% and 6.2%, 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 10.3% and 10.1% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job gain came from the professional and business services sector, which added 1,200 jobs in January.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues that have been battered by the months-long closures, added 400 jobs in January after losing 1,000 in December following additional restrictions on indoor dining that ran over all of the major holidays.

The financial activities sector added 400 jobs and the government added 500, while the construction and information sectors both added 100. Another 400 jobs were created in non-identified sectors.

Losses in January were more muted, with the education and health sector seeing the most at 400 jobs. Manufacturing, retail trade, and transportation and utilities all saw losses of 200 jobs.

Officials will have a quick turnaround on more recent hiring data, as the state labor department releases its February jobs report on March 26 after the typical delayed reporting period as previous calendar year reports are closed out.

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