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Unemployment Rate in Washington’s Ward 8 Is Highest in U.S.

March 30 (Bloomberg) -- The jobless rate in the poorest part of the District of Columbia is higher than in any U.S. metropolitan area with a labor-force of comparable size, according to figures released by the city government.

Unemployment in the Ward 8 section of the capital climbed to 25.2 percent in January, the latest month of available data, from 23.1 percent in December, figures from the Department of Employment Services show. The next highest rate, as measured by the U.S. Labor Department, was 25.1 percent, in El Centro, California.

Ward 8 is in the southeast section of Washington, about four miles from the White House and home to the Anacostia neighborhood. The poverty rate is 35 percent, compared with 18 percent for the city as a whole, according to the Washington-based Urban Institute, citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2005-2009. Average household income for Ward 8 during the period was $44,076, compared with $115,016 for the District of Columbia, according to the institute.

“People living in this part of the city tend to have lower education attainment,” said Peter Tatian, a senior researcher in the Urban Institute’s Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and director of NeighborhoodInfo DC. “You also have a lot of people who are returning from incarceration or have other legal problems, and so those folks find themselves at a disadvantage in hiring.”

The Ward 7 section of Washington had the second-highest jobless rate at 17.1 percent, up from 15.6 percent in December. Unemployment was lowest in Ward 3, at 2.7 percent.

“In some neighborhoods, one out of every three adults is unemployed,” Mayor Vincent Gray said this week in his State of the District speech. “The District is home to the haves and the have-nots. Many of the new jobs created over the past decade have required higher education.”

Unemployment in Washington was 9.6 percent in January, when the U.S. unemployment rate was 9 percent. The District of Columbia’s population gained 5 percent, to 601,723, from 2000 to 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

To contact the reporter on this story: Timothy R. Homan in Washington at thoman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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