Economic indicators flattened in September for Americans with disabilities, amid signs of softening of the overall labor market, 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 the start of Disability Employment Awareness Month, this sobering news reminds us of the importance of people working in the field of disability employment and the work they do to support people who are striving to work.
nTIDE September 2019 Jobs Report: Indicators level off for Americans with disabilities
Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire nTIDE Report featuring National Disability Institute’s work on the end goal of disability employment — financial stability and independence for people with disabilities
Durham, NH – October 4, 2019: Economic indicators flattened in September for Americans with disabilities, amid signs of softening of the overall labor market, 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 the start of Disability Employment Awareness Month, this sobering news reminds us of the importance of people working in the field of disability employment and the work they do to support people who are striving to work.
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities did not change from 31.4 percent in September 2018 to 31.4 percent in September 2019. For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio increased from 74.0 percent in September 2018 to 74.9 percent in September 2019 (up 1.2 percent or 0.9 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio is the percentage of the population that is working.
“This lack of improvement in the economic indicators is disappointing, particularly in the month that we celebrate the labor of our working citizens with disabilities,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “The softening labor market may be a factor in the leveling off of the employment-to-population ratio. As the year draws to a close, we hope to see an uptick in the indicators for people with disabilities.”
The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities decreased from 34.1 percent in September 2018 to 33.7 percent in September 2019 (down 1.2 percent or 0.4 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate increased from 76.6 percent in September 2018 to 77.4 percent in September 2019 (up 1 percent or 0.8 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.
In September 2019, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,714,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the total 147,935,000 workers in the U.S.
Beyond the Numbers
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to focus on the contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces, and assess efforts to increase inclusion. According to nTIDE, people with disabilities are continuing to strive to recover from the impact of the Great Recession. As they approach pre-Recession levels of employment, however, a persistent problem looms – the wide and persistent gap in employment between people with disabilities and without disabilities. This gap underlies the association between disability and poverty in the U.S.; 40% of people with disabilities live in poverty.
According to National Disability Institute (NDI), financial instability is a serious issue for people with disabilities, many of whom struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. Compared to people without disabilities, people with disabilities are more likely to have difficulty paying bills, managing expenses related to medical care, and dealing with unplanned expenses. Only 32% can handle an unanticipated expense of $2,000.
“The focus on employment as the desired outcome needs to change,” said Michael Morris, NDI’s executive director. “For disability employment service providers, the end goal must be financial independence and stability. That means providing financial services that are affordable and accessible, and education and coaching that helps individuals take advantage of those services and make fully informed decisions.”
Employers can help by integrating financial services and education into their benefit plans, including information specific to workers with disabilities. “There’s an opportunity to educate their employees with disabilities about ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts, tax-advantaged savings accounts that are an important way for people with disabilities to accumulate assets,” noted Morris. “Employers could encourage the use of ABLE accounts by seeding new accounts and matching contributions.”
Wraparound services are an essential component to employment programs for people with disabilities. “Despite the challenges, people with disabilities are striving to work,” said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of the Center for Grant making and Communications at Kessler Foundation. “To help them achieve their end goal of financial independence requires a comprehensive approach. Programs that address their needs for financial literacy, as well as education, medical care, transportation, child care, and legal services, will be most effective.”
Ask Questions about Disability and Employment
Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series today, October 4, 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 October 4, Michael Morris, J.D., Executive Director of National Disability Institute (NDI), joins John O’Neill, PhD., CRC, and Denise Rozell, Policy Strategist at AUCD. Join live or watch the recordings at: www.ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE.