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Half of Minnesota's American Indians are jobless

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While declining incomes among Minnesota's African-Americans have recently stirred calls to action, a leading American Indian group is pointing to a 50 percent jobless rate among the state's tribal members.

The American Indian OIC highlighted recent census figures showing that while 10 percent of the state's American Indians are classified as unemployed, another 40 percent are not in the labor force at all.

Why are so many not looking for work?

The advocacy group suspects many of them are what economists call "discouraged workers" – people who have stopped looking for jobs because they believe there are none available for which they're qualified.

Others may have dropped out of the labor force because they are financially independent.

MinnPost took a closer look at the issue of tribe wealth a few years ago, and noted many American Indians living on reservations have seen less casino revenue than others. MinnPost noted a 43 percent poverty rate on the White Earth reservation.

Poverty is one of the forces behind what the New York Times called "a largely unnoticed mass migration of American Indians" from reservations to cities. But the Times reported the 2013 poverty rate among Minneapolis' American Indians was 45 percent.

What to do?

Steve Hine, who is with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, tells the American Indian OIC state officials are troubled by the job numbers for American Indians.

Hine says employment inequities among people of color were behind the Dayton administration creating a new Office of Career and Business Opportunity last month.

The president of the American Indian OIC, Joe Hobot said in a statement: "Action is absolutely required on the part of the Governor, the legislature, and DEED to work in concert with the American Indian community to begin to officially identify, tabulate, and address the economic disparities currently infecting our people."

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