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May 2017 nTIDE Jobs Report: Longest Stretch of Job Gains Continues for Americans with Disabilities

June 2, 2017
Source: Institute on Disability at University of New Hampshire, Research on Disability

Job gains continued for Americans with disabilities in May, extending the trend to 14 consecutive months, according to todays National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshires Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). This constitutes the longest stretch of recorded gains for this population. Fostering a culture of inclusion in the workplace requires large-scale efforts on the national level. Since 2012, the Workplace Initiative, a collaboration of more than 250 nonprofits, government agencies and companies, has provided expert guidance to help employers recognize the talents of jobseekers with disabilities and the benefits of a workplace that is truly inclusive.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, June 2, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 28.3 percent in May 2016 to 29.2 percent in May 2017 (up 3.2 percent; 0.9 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 72.9 percent in May 2016 to 73.6 percent in May 2017 (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 14th consecutive month, the proportion of working people with disabilities has continued to grow, and once again the improvements in their economic indicators outpace those seen for people without disabilities,” according to John ONeill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “The duration of this upward trend shows that people with disabilities are continuing to move toward pre-Great Recession employment levels,” he added.

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 31.6 percent in May 2016 to 32.6 percent in May 2017 (up 3.2 percent; 1.0 percentage point). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 76.3 percent in May 2016 to 76.6 percent in May 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.

“Seeing increases in both the employment to population ratio and labor force participation rate is a strong indicator of increasing engagement of people with disabilities in the economy, although the gaps between people with and without disability remain wide,” said Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH, and research director at the Institute on Disability.

Planning on the corporate level is the key to creating a culture that values the contributions of employees with disabilities. The Workplace Initiative has launched a comprehensive toolkit called “Disability Employment and Inclusion: Your Guide to Success,” to help companies meet their need for human resources by establishing a thoughtful process for recruiting, hiring and retaining jobseekers with disabilities. “As with any new initiative, it is important to ensure proper planning and alignment with business objectives. It is no different when starting a disability inclusion program,” said Meg OConnell, president of Global Disability Inclusion. “Proper planning will ensure effective implementation, program adoption, growth and expansion,” she emphasized.

This toolkit is relevant to a wide range of industries, companies of varying sizes, and workplace environments in different stages of readiness. Every phase is covered, from defining the initiative through the measuring of its success. “To achieve the expansion in jobs needed to close the employment gap for people with disabilities, we must develop programs that are effective, sustainable and scalable,” advised Elaine Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of Grants and Communications at Kessler Foundation. “Measuring the success of each initiative contributes to our knowledge base and furthers our progress toward a workplace that is truly inclusive.”

Spearheaded by the Poses Family Foundation, the core of the Workplace Initiative is a funder collaborative of nine organizations committed to advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities: 100 Percent Wine, Autism Speaks, Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, Institute for Career Development – New York, Kessler Foundation, May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, NEXT for Autism, Poses Family Foundation, and Ruderman Family Foundation.

In May 2017, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,736,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.3 percent of the total 144,056,000 workers in the U.S.

The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, July 7, 2017.

Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series today, June 2, at 12:00pm EST. 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. Meg OConnell, president of Global Disability Inclusion, will join Drs. Houtenville and ONeill, and Denise Rozell, policy strategist at AUCD, to discuss todays findings. You can join live, or watch the recordings at:

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.

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