The nation’s unemployment rate soared to 9.7 percent in August, the highest since June 1983, the federal government reported today.

For African Americans, the jobless rate hit a staggering 15.1 percent, up 0.6 percent from the previous month. Whites, meanwhile, were unemployed at a rate of 8.9 percent, Hispanics, 13 percent.

Labor analysts predict the national average will top 10 percent later this year before it begins to trend downward.

But even among the dismal numbers, economists found reason for optimism: Employers shed 216,000 net jobs in August, significantly better than the revised 276,000 jobs lost in July and less than the 230,000 decline that forecasters expected.

“High unemployment rates are going to be with us for quite a while,” Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, was quoted as saying in the New York Times. “It’s going to be a long, long time before we see 6 percent or 7 percent unemployment.”

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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