nTIDE Jobs Report: Strong employment gains continue for Americans with disabilities

August 5, 2016

Durham, NH - For the fourth straight month, major economic indicators increased for people with disabilities, according to today's National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). The Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) focuses on strategies that facilitate the transition of jobseekers with disabilities to the workplace. To improve available services and facilitate the process of transition, WIOA promotes the coordination of state vocational rehabilitation programs with employment and training services. By aligning workforce development programs with employers’ needs, jobseekers will be better equipped to move into available positions.

National Trends in Disability Employment: Comparison of People with & without Disabilities (July 2015 & July 2016)

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Jobs Report released Friday, August 5, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 27.2 percent in July 2015 to 28.1 percent in July 2016 (up 3.3 percent; 0.9 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 72.6 percent in July 2015 to 73.3 percent in July 2016 (up 1.0 percent; 0.7 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).

“For the fourth consecutive month we are seeing an improvement in the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities,” noted John O’Neill, Ph.D., director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “Once again, these gains are outpacing those made by people without disabilities. This pattern is similar to what we saw in the first half of last year. Let’s hope that we continue on this course and avoid the downturn that occurred in the second half of 2015.”

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 30.6 percent in July 2015 to 32 percent in July 2016 (up 4.6 percent; 1.4 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 76.8 percent in July 2015 to 77.1 percent in July 2016 (up 0.4 percent; 0.3 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

“Not only are more people with disabilities working, but more people with disabilities are actively looking for work,” said Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at UNH. “This is evidenced by the fact that the labor force participation rate went up by more than the employment-to-population ratio, percentage-point wise.”

Coordination of services is a useful approach on the local, as well as the state and national levels. While job training and employment organizations are available to help people with disabilities enter the workforce, lack of coordination often results in gaps in service. A new transition program being implemented by Access Living in Metropolitan Chicago provides comprehensive services for high school students with disabilities. Students in the Realizing Education and Advancement for Disabled Youth (READY) Program can choose from two focus areas – college access or employment.

“The disability community is an untapped workforce eager to contribute,” said Marca Bristo, president & CEO of Access Living. “The READY Program helps identify traditional barriers that exist along the path to higher education and employment, and gives students with disabilities tools to navigate those barriers and be successful.”

Students focusing on college access work one-on-one with an education specialist to select and apply to colleges, explore support services, and secure financial aid. In the employment focus, students receive one-on-one assistance with skill development, resume writing, interview techniques, and job hunting. The READY program coordinates with employment readiness organizations and area colleges to provide a continuum of services, including ongoing support to ensure success for participants in college or in the workplace. The goal is to close the employment gap for students transitioning from Chicago Public Schools – only 36 percent of Illinoisans with disabilities achieve employment compared with 74 percent of those without disabilities. The READY program is funded by a large, two-year grant from Kessler Foundation.

In July 2016, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,444,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.1 percent of the total 143,497,000 workers in the U.S.

The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, September 2, 2016.

Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series, starting today, August 5 at 12:00PM EST. This live broadcast hosted via Zoom Webinar will offer attendees Q&A on the latest nTIDE findings, provide news and updates from the field of Disability Employment, as well as host-invited panelists to discuss current disability-related findings and events. Portia Wu, the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration in the Department of Labor, joins Drs. Houtenville, O’Neill and Dr. Michael Gamel-McCormick to discuss today’s findings. You can join live, or watch the recordings at www.ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE.

NOTE: The statistics in the National Trends in Disability Employment – Update are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, but are NOT identical. They have been customized by the University of New Hampshire to efficiently combine the statistics for men and women of working age (16 to 64).

nTIDE is funded, in part, by grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (90RT5022-02-00 & 90RT5017) 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.