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Americans in poor areas want jobs, but health problems get in the way

| Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, 8:33 p.m.
A recruiter in the shale gas industry, left, speaks with an attendee of a job fair in Cheswick, Pa.
Keith Srakocic/AP
A recruiter in the shale gas industry, left, speaks with an attendee of a job fair in Cheswick, Pa.

WASHINGTON — The tightest labor market in years isn't pulling in all Americans.

Despite a robust job market that added 200,000 positions in January and many companies struggling to find skilled labor, the unemployment rate is 10 percent in impoverished neighborhoods, compared with the national rate of 4.1 percent, according to a Gallup survey for the Center for Advancing Opportunity.

In those communities, about 30 percent of job seekers, both men and women, cite health problems as an obstacle.

“This finding highlights the two-way relationship between low socioeconomic status and poor health in such communities, and the need for more targeted research to determine which health interventions have the most potential to break this negative cycle,” the report on the survey said.

Other hurdles cited by respondents including not enough job openings, low pay, the need to care for children or other family members, and not being qualified for available jobs.

The findings are included in the first report by the Center for Advancing Opportunity, a research initiative formed through a $26 million donation to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund from billionaire Charles Koch and Koch Industries in 2017. Results are based on a survey of about 6,200 people living in “fragile” communities across the United States, or those with high proportions of financial hardship and limited growth paths. The survey was conducted between May and August.

Almost two-thirds of residents in those communities identified as black or Hispanic, compared with about one-third for the country as a whole, according to the report.

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