Delaware sees large October unemployment drop

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DOVER – Delaware’s unemployment rate saw a big drop in October, falling 2.7 percentage points to 5.6% in the fifth consecutive month of job gains, according to state officials.

The October monthly unemployment report released Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor showed that 3,200 more people went back to work last month. The new jobs add to the more than 38,000 jobs that were added back between May and September, but that comes off Delaware’s staggering loss of 74,700 in April.

Delaware’s October rate of 5.6% marks the first time in the COVID-19 pandemic that the state’s rate was below the national average, which sat at 6.9% last month. New weekly unemployment claims in the First State fell to about 1,500 in the week ending Nov. 14, but more than 28,000 people continue to receive assistance. The governor’s latest restrictions on indoor dining this month may lead to weekly claims rising once again if restaurants do pare back on staffing with fewer diners.

More than 153,000 workers have filed for unemployment assistance in the wake of the pandemic, and a variety of state and federal programs have tried to help offset some of their losses.

Delaware ranked tied for 20th for best unemployment rate overall last month, well ahead of its neighbors. Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey ranked 37th, 42nd, and 46th overall respectively with rates between 7.2% and 8.3%.

The Delaware Department of Labor’s report, which is taken monthly during the calendar week that contains the 12th day, showed that 27,000 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 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 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.

The state’s three counties saw similar rates of unemployment with New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties reporting rates of 5.7%, 5.9% and 4.6%, 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 10.5% and 8.7% of workers were unemployed, respectively.

One concerning factor in the October jobs report, however, was that Delaware’s labor force dropped 8,700 workers. It’s the third consecutive month of a decreasing labor pool after gaining workers 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 leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues that were battered by the months-long closures. It added 2,300 jobs.

The transportation and utilities subsector added 900 jobs while the retail and wholesale trade sectors added 900 as well. The education and health care sector, which saw many schools reopen in October for the first time this school year, added 100 jobs while professional and business services added 200.

Meanwhile, the federal and state government shed a total of 900 jobs while the construction and financial services industries each cut 300.

By Jacob Owens

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