nTIDE March 2019 Jobs Report: Economic indicators again show slight declines for Americans with disabilities

Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire release nTIDE Report – Monthly Update

Durham, NH – In March, job numbers again showed slight declines for Americans with disabilities, in contrast with modest gains for Americans without disabilities, according to today’s National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). This may indicate a tapering off of the engagement of people with disabilities in the labor market.

This nTIDE release, the third in a series focusing on employment and the media, features programs based on the power of storytelling. The creative arts and media provide effective means of artistic expression for people with disabilities as well as sources for job training and employment. Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series today, April 5, at 12:00 pm Eastern.

In the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities decreased from 31.7 percent in March 2018 to 31.1 percent in March 2019 (down 1.9 percent or 0.6 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio increased from 73.6 percent in March 2018 to 74.2 percent in March 2019 (up 0.8 percent or 0.6 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).

“The lack of improvement in the economic indicators is disappointing,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “We hope that this is not a return to what we saw during the last half of 2015 where there were persistent declines in the employment-to-population ratio.”

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities decreased from 34.8 percent in March 2018 to 34.2 percent in March 2019 (down 1.7 percent or 0.6 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 76.7 percent in March 2018 to 77.2 percent in March 2019 (up 0.7 percent or 0.5 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

“During this tight labor market, the engagement of people with disabilities had improved, with really great numbers since late 2016.  However, it appears that this trend in engagement has begun to taper off,” noted Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability.

Two organizations that promote awareness and advocacy through storytelling are Rooted in Rights, a video and social media advocacy program based in Seattle, WA, and ReelAbilities, an annual festival of films about disability founded at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan in New York City that is expanding internationally.  These creative outlets enable artists, writers, and advocates to engage the larger community in the issues of importance to the disability community.

Through the art and business of filmmaking, advocates are raising awareness of disability and the important issues affecting the disability community.  By harnessing the power of storytelling, Rooted in Rights reframes the traditional narratives about disability, mental illness, and chronic illness. A program of Disability Rights Washington, Rooted in Rights exemplifies the motto of the disability community, “Nothing about Us without Us.” All aspects of storytelling and video production are handled by professionals with disabilities. To effect change in the disability community, Rooted in Rights provides training in video advocacy, hosts a blog that showcases writers with disabilities, and partners with local coalitions and national advocacy campaigns to produce visual media based on authentic, accessible stories. Learn more about Rooted in Rights: https://rootedinrights.org/

This spring marks the 11th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York, a weeklong city-wide festival devoted to films and performances that explore the lives of people with disabilities, and celebrate their varied artistic expressions. The festival, the largest of its kind in the U.S., selects its films from hundreds of international submissions each year. ReelAbilities: New York now shares its programming with ReelAbilities festivals in 20 other cities, as well as in Canada and Latin America. ReelAbilities prioritizes accessible venues and strives for the full participation of festival goers with mobility, visual, and hearing impairments. Learn more about ReelAbilities: https://reelabilities.org/.

Visit the nTIDE archives to learn about these programs that promote employment in media and entertainment - Lights Camera Access 2.0 presented by Tari Hartman Squire, and Inclusion Films by Joey Travolta https://researchondisability.org/home/ntide.

In March 2019, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,873,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.3 percent of the total 146,333,000 workers in the U.S.

Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series today, April 5, at 12:00 pm Eastern. This live broadcast, hosted via Zoom Webinar, offers attendees Q&A on the latest nTIDE findings, provides news and updates from the field, as well as invited panelists to discuss current disability-related findings and events. Anna Letitia Zivarts, program director of Rooted in Rights, joins Dr. Houtenville, Dr. O’Neill, and Denise Rozell, Policy Strategist at AUCD. Join live or watch the recordings at: www.ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE.

NOTE: The statistics in the nTIDE are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers but are not identical. They are customized by UNH to 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) (9ORT5022 and 90RT5017) and Kessler Foundation.