Delaware jobless rate drops to 3.3 percent

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Delaware’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate may have hit bottom in March.

The jobless figure fell to 3.3 percent, down from 3.4 percent in February.

The Delaware Department of Labor reported that 16,100 unemployed Delawareans in March 2019 compared to 19,000 in March 2018. The national unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in March, unchanged from February 2019. In March 2018 the US unemployment rate was 4 percent, while Delaware’s rate was 4 percent.

The lower figures came despite lower-than-average growth in employment. That would seem to suggest more people are out of the workforce, due to retirement, disability, substance abuse or other issues.

In March 2019, seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment was 465,500, down from 465,800 in February 2019. Since March 2018, Delaware’s total nonfarm jobs have increased by 5,100, up 1.1 percent. Nationally, jobs during that period increased by 1.7 percent.

In its monthly commentary, the department noted that the 3.3 percent represents a historic barrier in Delaware’s labor market.

“Over the past three decades, the state’s rate has reached 3.3 percent 10 times but has not gone below it. The first of those times, in April 1989, it was on the way up after 27 consecutive months below 3.3 percent. It has not been below since,” the department noted. “The state labor force data go back to 1976, and even during Delaware’s strongest economic period at the end of the 1980s, the state unemployment rate never dipped below 3 percent; it was at exactly 3 percent for eight of those months. The most recent time it was at 3.3 percent was in July 2007. From there it began a rise that continued until it hit 8.8 percent in January 2010. It has come down more or less steadily since.”

The department again noted that figures are subject to revision. In recent years, unemployment rates have been adjusted downward as payroll data, rather than estimates were used. The opposite could also occur.

“It is unlikely Delaware’s unemployment rate will dip below 3 percent, but even if it does it may well be fleeting, only lasting until the data are revised next year,” the department reported.

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