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Delaware unemployment rate ticks down in Sept.

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate continued to tick down 10 more basis points in September, although it lost about 2,500 jobs, largely in seasonal occupations like hospitality, according to state officials.

The job losses come after a gain of about 7,000 jobs in the preceding three months, and were compounded by a loss of about 100 people from the labor force as well, 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 childcare, they are no longer counted as being unemployed in the state. The fall in the labor force may be a sign that the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is stalling, with more potential workers choosing to not pursue employment right now.

Delaware’s September unemployment rate of 5.3% was significantly higher than the national average, which sat at 4.8% last month. New weekly unemployment claims in the First State have fallen to just 387 in the week ending Oct. 16, less than half of that reported a month prior.

Fewer than 5,500 people continue to receive assistance though, the lowest rate since the pandemic set in in earnest. The number of recipients fell steeply in September after the federal government’s added benefits expired and renewed work-search requirements have taken hold.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report, which is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day, showed that 26,100 workers were unemployed, a decrease of 300 over August.

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 265,000 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-19-month-long pandemic, state and federal unemployment assistance has paid more than $1.45 billion to Delaware residents.

The state’s three counties saw differing rates of unemployment in September, with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 4.9%, 5.6% and 4.4%, respectively – although those statistics aren’t seasonally adjusted, which impacts tourism-based growth in coastal destinations. Wilmington and Dover, the state’s two most populous cities, have seen an even greater impact in job losses, where 7.5% and 7.7% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

The largest monthly job losses came from the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 1,500 jobs, and the professional and business sector, which lost 1,400. The information sector and unassorted industries lost 200 each, while the manufacturing; and trade, transportation and utilities sectors each lost 100.

Construction was the biggest gainer in September, adding 700 jobs, while government also added 300.

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