ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Black residents in Minnesota are seeing signs of economic progress, but a wide poverty gap remains.

State Demographer Susan Brower told Minnesota Public Radio that U.S. Census Bureau data over the last several years show more black residents in Minnesota have jobs and health insurance and that fewer children are living in poverty.

The Census' American Community Survey shows three in 10 black residents in Minnesota live in poverty.

Census data show median earnings for black residents in Minnesota rose 14 percent to nearly $24,600 from 2015 to 2016. But black residents only earn about 60 percent of what white residents make.

George Arthur, who works at the Twin Cities airport, said he received a $1.50 an hour raise last year, which brings his pay up to $10.50 an hour. But Arthur said he aims to earn $15 an hour.

The unemployment rate for black residents in Minnesota has fallen from 20 percent in 2011 to 11 percent in 2016. But that jobless rate remains about twice the unemployment rate of white people in Minnesota.

Minneapolis Urban League President Steven Belton said it's time to take action to lessen the economic disparities.

"I'd like to see some government action and some policies that impatiently say we have to address this problem now, we have to arrest it now," Belton said. "We can't wait for another cycle of ACS surveys to tell us what we already know."

Changes likely will occur slowly, said Libby Starling, regional planning director of the Metropolitan Council. Addressing the disparities will require work from public and private sectors in education, housing and transportation, she said.

"Some of these disparities are at a scale that it will take years, if not decades, to really begin to significantly close these gaps," she said.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News,