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Recession widened jobs gap between blacks and whites

A new report from the National Urban League found that economic conditions have worsened for black Americans. Blacks now have a jobless rate 6.8 percentage points higher than whites.

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As the US struggles to dig out from a "great recession," blacks and Hispanics are more than three times as likely as whites to live below poverty, according to a report released Wednesday.

That's one stark conclusion of an annual "State of Black America" report, issued by the National Urban League, a civil rights group based in New York.

Also, a jobs gap with white Americans has widened. African-Americans had a jobless rate 4.6 percentage points higher than that of white Americans as the recession began in 2007, and now that difference has grown to 6.8 percentage points. Hispanic Americans don't confront as large a chasm with whites, but the gap for them has also grown significantly in the past 30 months, according to Labor Department data.

To some extent, these racial disparities repeat patterns seen in past recessions. But economists also say the trends are part of a larger challenge for America, which goes beyond the cyclical ups and downs of the jobs market.

The tough job market, they say, is shaped in important ways by longer term forces – so-called "structural" changes such as the decline of factory jobs. These forces include the growing importance of education to labor-market success, and the tendency of Americans over age 65 to remain active in the job market.

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