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With economic numbers bleak for many minorities, Dayton adds new office

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Nearly 40 percent of African American children in Minnesota live in poverty.

In addition, the poverty rate among African Americans in the state jumped from 30.5 percent in 2013, to 34.7 percent last year.

In 2013, the median income for African Americans in Minnesota was $31,491 – one year later it had dropped to $27,440, down 13 percent.

Those numbers, according to the governor's office, come from a recent U.S. Census Bureau report – and prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to announce a new office aimed specifically at addressing the economic issues facing minorities in Minnesota.

The Office of Career and Business Opportunity has four objectives, according to the news release:

  • Connecting workers in communities of color with training and resources to find good jobs.
  • Getting minority business owners better access to opportunities and resources.
  • Addressing the state business community's hiring and contracting processes.
  • Helping the governor's Diversity and Inclusion Council.

“We cannot afford to admire or ignore these problems any longer," Dayton said in the release, calling it a first and important step. "It is time now to take action to improve the lives and economic futures of all Minnesotans.”

Last week, Dayton told the 1,000 or so attendees of the annual Business Partnership dinner that diversifying the state's work force by helping minorities get well-paying jobs is "not only the right thing to do, it's an economic necessity," the Star Tribune reported.

He also blamed himself for not addressing the issue with an initiative earlier, the paper said.

The new office will be housed within the Department of Employment and Economic Development (usually shortened to DEED).

More data

MPR News dived into some new census data last week, and said that while the numbers "paint a grim picture of the social and financial condition of many African Americans in Minnesota compared to whites," data experts said to "caution against drawing hard conclusions" when projecting long-term, because of a few factors.

By the most recent count, Minnesota had a 4 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate overall, well below the national average of 5.1 percent.

But DEED offers more specific measurements, including a look at the jobless rate based on race or ethnicity. Those numbers paint a much starker picture for African American communities, which had an unemployment rate of 15.9 percent.

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