States that saw the highest rate of Latino growth in the 2012 Census Bureau estimates were places not normally seen as magnets for the ethnic community.
But the pattern of Latinos settling in places such as the Dakotas, Alaska, Wyoming and Tennessee underscores the expansion of this group in the last decade or so beyond urban areas and U.S.-Mexico border states.
North Dakota led the pack, with a 15.5 percent jump in its Latino population between July 2011 and July 2012. The Latino community there grew to 17,230 from 14,916 in just one year, Census officials said Friday.
South Dakota followed with a rise of 8.6 percent, from 23,669 in 2011 to 25,715 in 2012. Then came Alaska, with a 7.4 percent jump, and Wyoming, with 6.1 percent.
In the past, demography experts have said that at least one factor in the Latino growth in some states could be the opportunity for jobs.
North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate –3.3 percent– in the nation in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. South Dakota had the fourth-lowest unemployment rate. Alaska’s jobless rate was 6 percent.
Nationally, the unemployment rate stood at 7.5 percent in April.
Among the top ten states with the highest Latino growth was also Montana, which has an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.
Nationwide, racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group, reflecting sweeping changes by race and class among young people. Due to an aging population, non-Hispanic whites last year recorded more deaths than births.
These two milestones revealed in the 2012 census estimates are the latest signs of a historic shift in which whites will become a minority within a generation, by 2043. They come after the Census Bureau reported last year that whites had fallen to a minority among newborns.
Fueled by immigration and high rates of birth, particularly among Hispanics, racial and ethnic minorities are growing more rapidly in numbers than whites.
The decline in the U.S. white population has been occurring more quickly than expected, resulting in the first "natural decrease" for whites — deaths exceeding births — in more than a century, census data show.
For now, the non-Hispanic white population continues to increase slightly, but only because of immigration from Europe.
Based on current rates of growth, whites in the under-5 group are expected to fall below 50 percent this year or next, said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's acting director.
"This is the tipping point presaging the gradual decline of the white population, which will be a signature demographic trend of this century," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.
"More so than ever, we need to recognize the importance of young minorities for the growth and vitality of our labor force and economy."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.