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Delaware unemployment rate falls slightly in September

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While the state unemployment rate fell for the fourth consecutive month, the rate of job growth is also slowing with only about 2,000 created last month. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UNSPLASH

DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate continued its slide for a fourth consecutive month in September, dropping 0.7 percentage points to 8.2% as the rate of job creation slowed, according to state officials.

The September monthly unemployment report released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor showed that 2,100 more people went back to work last month. That is 3,000 fewer jobs created than in August.

The new jobs add to the more than 36,000 jobs that were added back between May and August, but that comes off Delaware’s staggering loss of 74,700 in April.

Despite continuing positively from the record-breaking unemployment rate of 15.9% in May, the September rate was still a half point higher than the national monthly average of 7.9%. It also comes as more than 2,000 people filed for unemployment assistance in Delaware last week – the highest weekly total since early August. The number of continuous claimants has continued to fall though, totaling a little more than 29,000 recipients last week, the lowest level since late March.

How Delaware stakes up against its peers won’t be known until Tuesday, Oct. 20, when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its September report for all 50 states and territories.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report, which is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day, showed that 40,400 workers were unemployed. Tom Dougherty, chief labor market economist for the department, previously explained that the monthly unemployment figure is created from looking at continuous unemployment insurance claims as well as a BLS survey of residents on their employment status.

The official monthly unemployment statistic 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.

While more than 145,000 workers have filed for unemployment assistance in the wake of the pandemic, most because of statewide business closures and restrictions mandated by Gov. John Carney to stem the spread of the virus, the state also had 19,400 unemployed workers in January, before the pandemic struck the U.S.

Dougherty said it’s important to remember that the monthly report is just a “snapshot” of one week in time.

The state’s three counties saw similar rates of unemployment with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 8.5%, 8.6% and 6.8%, 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 14% and 12.1% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

One more concerning fact in the September jobs report was that Delaware’s labor force dropped 5,600 workers. It’s the second consecutive month of a decreasing labor pool after gaining them for three consecutive months and 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.

The largest monthly gain came from the retail sector, where in-store shopping is more widely available under Phase 1 and 2 of the state’s reopening plan. It added 1,700 jobs for the second month in a row.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues that were battered by the months-long closures, added 1,100 jobs while local government added 400 and construction added 100.

The transportation and infrastructure sector saw the largest monthly loss with 1,100 jobs while the state government also shed 300 positions.

By Jacob Owens

[email protected]

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