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Delaware unemployment rate falls in May

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Delaware’s unemployment rate has reached a new post-pandemic low after adding a surge of workers and jobseekers. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC PROUZET/UNSPLASH

DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate continued a slow slide down in May, reaching a new post-pandemic low just as the national trend moved higher, according to state officials.

May saw a gain of 2,000 jobs and an additional 2,000 jobseekers in the labor force, according to the monthly report released Friday morning.

It represents a significant turn from April, when Delaware saw a net monthly loss in jobs for the first time in a year. The 485,700 employed non-farm workers in the state is a new record, according to state officials and the addition of 2,000 jobseekers in May marks the single largest monthly gain since December 2020.

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 needs, they are no longer counted as being unemployed in the state.

Delaware’s May unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% and sits only 50 basis points from the national average, which also rose 30 basis points to 3.7% last month. The 4.2% rate is the lowest that Delaware’s unemployment has dropped since February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, when the rate was 3.7%.

Despite the positive momentum, Delaware ranked 48th in unemployment rate among states in May, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It ranked only ahead of California and Nevada. The First State has fallen behind Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland, which ranked 44th, 37th and 10th at 4%, 3.6%, and 2.4%, respectively. Nebraska, New Hampshire and South Dakota were tied with the lowest rate at 1.9% while Nevada had the highest at 5.4%.

Notably, 41 states either matched or bested the national average.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day. The state recorded 21,200 unemployed people last month, a decrease of 300 people over April.

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.

The state’s three counties saw differing rates of unemployment in May, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 3.8%, 4.4% 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 6.1% and 5.4% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

Leading job gains last month was the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 800 jobs last month as restaurants, resorts and attractions began staffing up for summer. It was followed by the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which added 700 jobs; the education and health sector, adding 400; the professional and business services sector, adding 300; construction, adding 200; and manufacturing, adding 100.

The information sector and government were the only sectors to see job losses last month, which each shedding 100 jobs.

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