nTIDE May 2019 Jobs Report: Job numbers up slightly for Americans with disabilities

Durham, NH – In contrast to recent months, job numbers improved slightly for Americans with 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). For people with disabilities, employment is key to achieving independence and fully participating in community life. Achieving these goals, however, requires incomes that support lifestyles in the community, which is why advancing competitive integrated employment is a component of several legislative initiatives on the national level.

Join our live nTIDE Lunch & Learn series today at 12:00 pm ET. Nicole Jorwic, JD, director of rights policy for The Arc, joins Andrew Houtenville, PhD, of University of New Hampshire, Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, of Kessler Foundation, and Denise Rozell, Policy Strategist at AUCD, to discuss advancing competitive integrated employment for individuals living with disabilities. Join live or watch the recordings at: www.ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report released Friday, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 29.7 percent in May 2018 to 30.7 percent in May 2019 (up 3.4 percent or 1 percentage point). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 74.2 percent in May 2018 to 74.5 percent in May 2019 (up 0.4 percent or 0.3 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).

“This positive change is encouraging,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “We will have to wait and see whether this is the beginning of an upward trend in the labor market for people with disabilities.”

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 32.2 percent in May 2018 to 32.8 percent in May 2019 (up 1.9 percent or 0.6 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 76.8 percent in May 2018 to 77.1 percent in May 2019 (up 0.4 percent or 0.3 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

“When compared to last year at this time, the numbers are quite ‘flat’ for people with and without disabilities,” noted Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability. “The economy being at full employment does not appear to be continuing to open up opportunities for people with disabilities as it did early in the period of full employment.” In May 2019, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,752,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the total 146,894,000 workers in the U.S.

Competitive integrated employment, as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), is work compensated for at or above the minimum wage and performed in an integrated setting, with wages and benefits comparable to coworkers without disabilities. Federal policies are changing the employment landscape as states commit to limiting the use of sub-minimum wage under Section 14(c), and transitioning individuals with disabilities from sheltered workshops to competitive integrated employment. Despite the implementation of policies such as WIOA and ongoing legislative efforts, challenges remain to widespread adoption of competitive integrated employment.

Until June 14, interested parties have the opportunity to provide feedback to the U.S. Department of Labor on the issue of competitive integrated employment. This is the final phase of a national conversation on the phasing out of Section 14(c), and support for building capacity for competitive integrated employment. “At Kessler Foundation, we focus our grantmaking on innovative initiatives based on competitive integrated employment,” said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president for Grants and Communications at the Foundation. “We encourage all members of the disability community – individuals, family members, employers, advocates, and other professionals – to join this online listening session. Sharing your thoughts and experiences, as well as your hopes for the future, will reinforce the importance of fair and equitable employment in reaching our ultimate goal of full integration of people with disabilities in all aspects of our society.”

To participate, login to the Section 14(c) National Online Dialogue by June 14, at https://14cdialogue.ideascale.com.

NOTE: The statistics in the nTIDE jobs report 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.