September 10, 2015
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Jobs Report released Friday, September 4, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 26.3 percent in August 2014 to 26.9 percent in August 2015 (up 2.3 percent; 0.6 percentage point). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio slightly increased from 71.9 percent in August 2014 to 72.4 percent in August 2015 (up 0.7 percent; 0.5 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio, a key indicator, reflects the percentage of people who are working relative to the total population (the number of people working divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100). In comparison to August 2014, 102,000 more Americans with disabilities are in the workforce.
“The improvement in the proportion of people with disabilities working continues to outpace improvements made by people without disabilities.” according to John O’Neill, Ph.D., director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “The relative magnitude of these gains, however, is smaller this month compared to the previous several months.”
In contrast, the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities decreased from 30.7 percent in August 2014 to 30.4 percent in August 2015 (down 1.0 percent; 0.3 percentage points). For people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also decreased from 76.5 percent in August 2014 to 76.3 percent in August 2015 (down 0.3 percent; 0.2 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.
“In contrast to the previous ten months, the labor force participation of people with disabilities declined, albeit slightly,” said Andrew J. Houtenville, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and research director at UNH-IOD. “Given the increase in the employment-to-population ratio, the fall in labor force participation rate is due to a reduction in the number of people with disabilities looking for work. It is always difficult to know whether this is a positive or negative sign. People may become discouraged and stop looking, and some of those who were looking for work may have found work.”
According to the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Disability and Employment Survey, more than 68 percent of people with disabilities are striving to work, including those who are working, actively seeking employment and preparing for the workplace. According to the survey, the top strategies people are using for preparing for work are obtaining medical and rehabilitative treatment, getting help from friends and furthering their education. Like their counterparts without disabilities, people with disabilities who are searching for jobs are successfully using online resources, connecting with opportunities through friends and relatives and contacting employers directly.
“On Labor Day, we acknowledge the social and economic gains that come from hard work,” said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. “A big part of the American dream is to start a career and achieve prosperity. Too often, people with disabilities have faced barriers in the pursuit of their dreams. This survey shows, however, that Americans with disabilities are succeeding in overcoming barriers and seeking employment. Once employed, they are looking for more hours. As more people with disabilities offer their talents to society and the workplace, we should also see economic gains since people with disabilities will have more disposable income to make purchases in addition to paying taxes.”
In August 2015, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,267,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.0 percent of the total 140,817,000 workers in the U.S.
“The statistics in nTIDE are not seasonally adjusted,” noted Dr. O’Neill. “Because disability employment data have been collected for so few years, more time is needed for seasonal trends to become evident.”