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Employment Data Confirm Upward Trend for People with Disabilities

April 05, 2013

DURHAM, N.H. - New data indicate a positive employment picture for people with disabilities, according to today's Trends in Disability Employment – National Update. This release is the second monthly analysis issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (IOD). The inaugural update was issued on March 8. 

In Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday, April 5, the employment-to-population ratio increased from 25.9 percent in March 2012 to 27.3 percent in March 2013 (up 5.4%) for working-age people with disabilities. “This change indicates that a greater proportion of people with disabilities are working,” according to John O’Neill, Ph.D., Kessler Foundation’s Director of Employment and Disability Research. “In contrast, for people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio remained about the same.” 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 divded by the number of people in the total population, multiplied by 100). 

In addition, the percent actively looking for work declined for people with disabilities, from 5.2 percent in March 2012 to 4.5 percent in March 2013 (down 14.3%). “Of course, this could mean a drop in people looking for work, but overall people with disabilities are participating in the labor market,” according to Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., IOD professor of economics. A lesser decline was recorded for people without disabilities, from 6.3 percent in March 2012 to 5.7 percent in March 2013 (down 9%). The percent looking for work reflects the percentage of people who are looking for work relative to the total population (the number of looking for work divided by the number of people in the total population, multiplied by 100). 

For the labor force participation rate, data were also positive for people with disabilities. The rate increased from 31.1 percent in March 2012 to 31.8 percent in March 2013 (up 2.3%). The labor participation rate is the percentage of people who are working or actively looking for work. In contrast, a small decrease was seen among people without disabilities - from 76.3 percent to 75.9 percent (down 0.5%). “This is yet more positive evidence that the labor market is starting to turn around for people with disabilities,” added O’Neill.

“These numbers still need to be interpreted with caution because of the lack of seasonal adjustment,” added Houtenville. “Five years of data are required to adjust for seasonal fluctuations,” he explained. “Data for people with disabilities have been formally tracked since June 2008, so that adjustment will be incorporated later this year.”

The Trends in Disability Employment update issued on March 8, 2013, suggested improvement in the engagement of people with disabilities in the workforce. 

The next Trends in Disability Employment – National Update will be issued on Friday, May 3, 2013. Trends in Disability Employment – National Update is funded, in part, by a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (H133B120006), and Kessler Foundation.

The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire was established in 1987 to provide a university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. Its mission is to promote full access, equal opportunities, and participation for all persons by strengthening communities and advancing policy and systems change, promising practices, education, and research.

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.

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