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March 2017 nTIDE Jobs Report: Americans with Disabilities Reach Milestone with Full Year of Job Gains

April 7, 2017
Source: Institute on Disability at University of New Hampshire, Research on Disability

Americans with disabilities continue to outpace their counterparts without disabilities, achieving a full year of job gains, 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). This is the first time in nTIDE reporting that data have been this encouraging. Integrating vocational resources into medical rehabilitation is a promising strategy for maintaining employment among people with disabling injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Hospital-based programs based on early intervention can help people stay in the workplace, or prepare them to return to work.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, April 7, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 27.3 percent in March 2016 to 28.6 percent in March 2017 (up 4.8 percent; 1.3 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 72.5 percent in March 2016 to 73.3 percent in March 2017 (up 1.1 percent; 0.8 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).

“A milestone has been achieved. For the first time since we began reporting these data in 2013, we have seen twelve consecutive months of improvement in the proportion of people with disabilities in the workplace,” according to John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “One year of employment growth is very encouraging and shows people with disabilities are striving to work as they move toward pre-Great Recession employment levels”, he added.

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 31.0 percent in March 2016 to 32.3 percent in March 2017 (up 4.2 percent; 1.3 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 76.3 percent in March 2016 to 76.6 percent in March 2017 (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.

“The employment gains by people with disabilities continue to outpace those of people without disabilities. This is a great sign, however, there is a long way to go to close the employment gap between people with and without disabilities,” said Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH, and research director at the Institute on Disability.

For individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI), maintaining employment promotes independence, social interaction, and life satisfaction. Despite advances in acute care and rehabilitation, their employment rates are very low. Because of progressively shorter durations of inpatient rehabilitation, there is less time to explore employment options. Through a pilot study underway at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, inpatients with SCI are being connected with vocational services that prepare them to return to competitive employment.

“We need to determine the types of services that help individuals with SCI return to the workplace,” noted Dr. O’Neill, PhD, the study’s principal investigator. “This demonstration project provides an embedded professional – a vocational resource facilitator – who works with each individual to coordinate vocational services and employment opportunities, and continues to provide support for two years after discharge. We are well on our way to achieving our goal of returning 30 individuals to work.” The Kessler study, which is funded by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, includes the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. “If successful, the program will become self-sustaining in three years. That will support the adoption of similar programs nationwide.”

In March 2017, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,532,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the total 143,462,000 workers in the U.S.

The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, May 5, 2017.

Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series, starting today, April 7 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, as well as invited panelists to discuss current disability-related findings and events. John Tschida, MPP, associate executive director for research and policy of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and former director of NIDILRR, joins Drs. Houtenville and O’Neill, Michael Murray of Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Denise Rozell, policy strategist at AUCD, to discuss today’s findings. You can join live, or watch the recordings at:

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

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