Our view: Economic hints from the January jobless figures


Good afternoon,

The Delaware Department of Labor released its January jobless rate figures on Friday, and few of us in the media world took notice. 

I downloaded the report on Friday but waited until today to highlight the findings in this space.

Over the years, the unemployment report has ranked at the bottom in reader interest, even during the coronavirus pandemic. 

There is value to the report.  Even with the flaws that mainly use estimates, employment stats offer some clues on the economy’s direction.


Such was the case in Friday’s report, which listed a Delaware jobless rate of 6 percent, up slightly from 5.9 percent a month earlier and well above the 4 percent rate we saw a year ago.

The six percent figure is slightly below the 6.3 percent national unemployment rate.

The January report offered a glimpse into the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Job losses in the state over the past year totaled 23,000 or five percent. As bad as that figure looks, it was lower than the national figure of 6.1 percent.

Delaware’s economy had slowed down before the pandemic.  In January 2020,  the nation’s jobless rate was 3.5 percent, while Delaware’s figure was 4.3 percent.

Delaware’s unemployment rate would have been higher had we not seen a startling jump of 2,400 jobs in transportation and utilities. All other sectors showed losses over the past year. Hospitality took the biggest hit, with a loss of more than 9,000 jobs.

It is possible that online shopping contributed to the transport gain. Delivery services, including Amazon, saw double-digit gains in volume throughout the year.

If current patterns hold, Delaware should see a modest recovery in 2021. The pace may depend on factors ranging from the effect of the stimulus bill, the pace of vaccinations, and the impact of the aggressive expansion at Amazon on construction and other sectors. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.