nTIDE June 2019 Jobs Report: Job numbers show strong gains for Americans with disabilities

Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire release nTIDE Report – Monthly Update – highlights initiatives supporting greater independence for people with disabilities   

nTIDE: Comparison of People With & Without Disabilities (June 2018 & 2019) infographicDurham, NH – Job numbers were up substantially for Americans with disabilities, an encouraging sign for those striving to work, 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). As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, we celebrate the many Americans with disabilities living independently in their communities, and the successful initiatives that support and sustain them.

Fundamental to advances in independent living is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law 29 years ago this month. The ADA, considered the "Emancipation Proclamation for People with Disabilities," forever altered the American landscape by outlawing discrimination in all aspects of public life, including employment, schools, transportation, local government programs, and accessibility. More recent legislation supports independent living by providing a pathway to financial independence for people with disabilities - Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014, known as the ABLE Act of 2014.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 29.5 percent in June 2018 to 31 percent in June 2019 (up 5.1 percent or 1.5 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 74.5 percent in June 2018 to 74.9 percent in June 2019 (up 0.5 percent or 0.4 percentage points).

 “This extends the positive change we saw last month,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “Continuation of this upward movement would be a step toward greater independence for people with disabilities.”

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 32.5 percent in June 2018 to 33.9 percent in June 2019 (up 4.3 percent or 1.4 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 77.6 percent in June 2018 to 77.8 percent in June 2019 (up 0.3 percent or 0.2 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

“These are great numbers compared to this time last year.  We will see what happens in the next few months to see if there is a reversal of the recent downward trend for people with disabilities,” noted Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability.

For millions of Americans with disabilities and their families, having adequate income, health care, nutrition, and housing means relying on public benefits. Prior to the Able Act, eligibility for these essential benefits (e.g., SSI, Medicaid, SNAP) meant limiting the assets of the individual to $2,000 in cash savings, retirement funds and other items of significant value.

In a tax-advantaged Able Savings Account, individuals with disability can accumulate substantial savings that can be used for disability-related expenses without jeopardizing their public benefits. The maximal annual contribution is $15,000, which can come from multiple sources; accounts max out at $100,000 for individuals with SSI insurance, with higher limits for other eligible people with disabilities. Qualified expenses may include education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology, personal support services, health care expenses, financial management and administrative services, and other services that help improve health, independence, and quality of life.

More than 40 states now have Able Programs, and many programs are open to out-of-state residents. “The ABLE Act provides a way to help cover the costs of living with a disability,” said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior VP of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation, “including costs related to working in the community. By significantly raising the asset limits, Able Programs enhance the ability of people with disabilities to achieve financial independence, and offer families an option for supplementing special needs trusts.”

In June 2019, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,777,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the total 147,805,000 workers in the U.S.

Each nTIDE press release is followed by an nTIDE Lunch & Learn 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. On July 5, Lori Norris, director of the National Center for Innovation & System Improvement at FEDCAP, joined Dr. Houtenville, Dr. O’Neill, and Denise Rozell, Policy Strategist at AUCD. Visit the nTIDE archives 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.