Economic indicators rose again in August, with Americans with disabilities outpacing the gains of people without 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). This was welcome news for celebrating Labor Day, and the many contributions of American workers, including people with disabilities.
nTIDE August 2019 Jobs Report: Tight labor market benefits Americans with disabilities
Durham, NH – September 6, 2019 – Economic indicators rose again in August, with Americans with disabilities outpacing the gains of people without 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). This was welcome news for celebrating Labor Day, and the many contributions of American workers, including people with disabilities.
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 30.2 percent in August 2018 to 32 percent in August 2019 (up 6 percent or 1.8 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 73.8 percent in August 2018 to 74.6 percent in August 2019 (up 1.1 percent or 0.8 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio is the percentage of the population that is working.
“The labor market’s continuing strength has created a sustained need for workers and that continues to benefit people with disabilities,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “This is particularly encouraging in the month that we celebrate the labor of our working citizens.”
The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 33 percent in August 2018 to 34.7 percent in August 2019 (up 5.2 percent or 1.7 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 76.7 percent in August 2018 to 77.4 percent in August 2019 (up 0.9 percent or 0.7 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.
“August is the fourth month of improving employment for people with disabilities, which may indicate a return to the positive trend that started in early 2014,” noted Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability. In August 2019, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,809,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.3 percent of the total 147407000 workers in the U.S.
Beyond the Numbers Expanding employment in disadvantaged communities presents challenges for all residents, including people with disabilities. Jobseekers with histories of chronic unemployment, substance abuse, and incarceration need intensive and individualized services in order to transition to long-term employment and achieve financial stability. In many communities, government agencies and community nonprofit organizations offer resources, but positive outcomes are hindered by lack of coordination of benefits and services.
To address the need for coordination, Project E3: Educate, Empower, Employ, a comprehensive program supported by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, is designed to serve communities with the deepest poverty and lowest employment in the U.S, known as Empowerment Zones. Project E3 provides a broad range of technical assistance to the state vocational rehabilitation agencies in these targeted communities, toward the goal of increasing competitive integrated employment for residents facing obstacles to entering the workplace.
Newark, New Jersey, is an example of an Empowerment Zone community where the Project E3 model is being implemented. With the technical assistance provided by Project E3, the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services defines the populations in need within Newark, identifies employment obstacles, as well as opportunities, and forms long-term partnerships with community stakeholders with shared goals, including workforce development agencies, correctional facilities, and nonprofit providers of educational, job placement and social services.
Among the community organizations leveraging the connections fostered through Project E3 is Blessed Ministries, Inc., a Newark-based nonprofit that receives support from a Kessler Foundation community employment grant. Blessed Ministries’ mission is to increase employer recognition of the talents of jobseekers from disadvantaged populations, and place individuals in jobs in high-demand industries.
“To effect measurable change for people with disabilities in targeted communities we need to concentrate our efforts and resources,” said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “By fostering community-level partnerships, Project E3 is effectively expanding the capacity of state vocational rehabilitation services in areas where the needs are the greatest,” she added. “This means community nonprofits like Blessed Ministries are able to extend their reach and help more individuals access vocational rehabilitation services, as well as the wraparound services like child care, transportation, housing, and medical care that are crucial to job retention. By providing a scalable model for coordinating existing state and local community services, Project E3 has the potential to change outcomes for communities with persistent, pervasive unemployment.”
Ask Questions about Disability and Employment
Join our nTIDE Lunch & Learn series today, September 6, 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 September 6, Maureen McGuire-Kuletz, EdD, CRC, co-director/associate professor at the GW Center for Rehabilitation Counseling Research and Education, George Washington University, joins Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, and Denise Rozell, Policy Strategist at AUCD. Join live or watch the recordings at: www.ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE.
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