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The unemployment rate for African-Americans fell to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest level since the government began tracking such data in 1972.

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FILE - This Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, file photo, shows the Illinois Department of Employment Security office in Springfield, Ill. On Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017, the Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits the week before. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Years of steady hiring and economic growth have delivered a cumulative benefit for at least one group that hasn’t always shared in America’s prosperity.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans fell to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest level since the government began tracking such data in 1972. The reasons range from a greater number of black Americans with college degrees to a growing need for employers in a tight job market to widen the pool of people they hire from.

Still, the rate for black workers remains well above those for whites and some other groups, something experts attribute in large part to decades of discrimination and disadvantages.

Robust job creation has lowered unemployment for all Americans. U.S. employers added nearly 2.1 million jobs in 2017 — the seventh straight year that hiring has topped 2 million. The U.S. economy gained a hefty 5.7 million jobs in 2014 and 2015 alone.

But there are also less-happy reasons for the lower unemployment rates: Fewer Americans are either working or looking for work. (People who aren’t actively seeking a job aren’t counted as unemployed.) An aging population means there are more retirees. Young Americans are also staying in school longer before job-hunting.

And some people, perhaps discouraged about their prospects, have given up looking for work and so aren’t included in the unemployment rate.  
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