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Unemployment drops for black and Asian Americans

January 6, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many black and Asian Americans found jobs in December, helping reduce their unemployment rates to levels last seen before the Great Recession ravaged the U.S. job market.

The jobless rate for black Americans fell to 7.8 percent from 8 percent in November. That is the lowest level since 2007.

Still, the picture was something of a mixed bag: While the number of employed black Americans rose in December, so did the proportion of those who neither had a job nor were looking for one.

But for the 2016 calendar year, black Americans made solid progress. Their unemployment rate fell sharply. And their labor force participation — the proportion who were either working or looking for work — rose.

Despite the improvement, an employment gap by race remains stubbornly wide: The jobless rate for African-Americans is much higher than the 4.3 percent rate for whites.

The unemployment rate for Asian Americans sank in December to 2.6 percent, the lowest level since 2007.

All told, employers added 156,000 jobs in December. The overall unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7 percent from a nine-year low of 4.6 percent. But it did so for an encouraging reason: More people began looking for work. Because not all of them found jobs immediately, more people were counted as unemployed in December.

The data for demographic groups came from a survey of households that is part of the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report.

Unemployment rate by group:
(Numbers in percentages) December 2016 November 2016 December 2015
White 4.3 4.2 4.5
Black 7.8 8.0 8.4
Asian 2.6 3.0 4.0
Hispanic or Latino ethnicity** 5.9 5.7 6.2
Adult men 4.4 4.3 4.7
Adult women 4.3 4.2 4.5
Teenagers 14.7 15.2 16.3
20-24 years old 8.2 8.1 9.4
25-54 years old 4.0 4.0 4.3
55 and over 3.6 3.5 3.2
Veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan* 5.7 6.5 5.7
No high school diploma 7.9 7.9 6.7
High school graduate 5.1 4.9 5.5
Some college 3.8 3.9 4.2
College graduate 2.5 2.3 2.5
Duration of Unemployment:
Average length (weeks) 26.0 26.2 27.8
Jobless 6 months or more (pct.) 24.8 24.8 26.3
*Not seasonally adjusted
**Includes all races
Source: Labor Department
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