DOVER — For the first time in 10 months, Delaware’s unemployment rate increased, according to the Monthly Labor Review issued Friday by the Delaware Department of Labor.
The increase was a small one, 4.5 percent to 4.6 percent, and attributed to 900 more employed residents accompanied by an additional 400 new job seekers.
The slight increase reflects the national unemployment rate, which grew from 5.4 percent in April to 5.5 percent in May.
“I don’t think we are going to see a large increase in unemployment, It has more to do with the numbers finally leveling off,” Delaware state economist George Sharpley said. “I don’t think there will be much of a direction, either up or down. I think we can expect for it to stay around the current numbers.”
Of the three counties, Kent has the highest unemployment rate at 5.1 percent and has maintained a steady top rate for more than a year while New Castle and Sussex have alternated between second and third.
In general, Delaware’s unemployment rates have been on the decline. At this time last year, Kent’s unemployment rate was 6.4 percent.
In May 2014, 26,600 Delawareans were jobless and in May 2015, 21,100 were reported jobless.
“Unemployment was so high over the past several years, around 2008 and 2010 that there was really no direction for the numbers to go than down,” Dr. Sharpley said. “But the unemployment rate can’t keep decreasing at the speed it was so that’s how we’ve reached this leveling off point.”
Every summer, Sussex County alone adds about 10,000 seasonal jobs and Dr. Sharpley estimates that number could be even higher this year. However, that won’t make much of a change in the unemployment rate because it is seasonally adjusted to take temporary jobs into account, he said.
The monthly report is based off survey data but the quarterly report, based off actual payroll numbers, will be released in the coming weeks and will provide a more complete and accurate picture of the state of employment in Delaware.