The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent in March as the economy lost 663,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported on Friday. But the Black unemployment rate remained relatively steady, dropping slightly from 13.4 percent to 13.3 percent. More than 5 million jobs have now been lost since the recession began in December 2007, and almost two-thirds (3.3 million) of the job losses took place in the last 5 months. The total number of unemployed persons increased to 13.2 million, the government said on Friday. The stable numbers among African Americans may mark a temporary reprieve or could indicate that unemployment is already so high in the Black community that the job crisis has already caused much of the harm before it reached the overall population. The Labor Department estimates that the first quarter unemployment rate for African Americans was 13.1 percent, higher than for any other racial or ethnic group. Last month, the government reported the Black unemployment rate for February reached the highest rate since June 1993. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains Black unemployment data back to 1972 on its Web site, and the records indicate that the rate reached its lowest level on record in April 2000 when it dropped to 7.0 percent, a figure still significantly higher than the 3.8 percent overall unemployment rate at the time.
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