Employment for People With Disabilities in the U.S. is on the Rise, New Report Says

Person with a disability at work

Finding a job if you have a disability is still much harder than it should be due to inaccessible workplaces, hiring discrimination, and other factors. However, a new report holds a glimmer of hope.

In particular, more people in the U.S. with disabilities were employed late last year compared to the overall population since this data started being collected in 2008, according to the latest National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) report, issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability. In comparison, this number remained essentially flat for people without disabilities, bucking the economy’s cooling trend.

Employment Numbers Edged Up in November

Based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report, the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities (ages 16-64) increased from 37.2 percent in October 2023 to 38.3 percent in November 2023 (up 3.0 percent or 1.1 percentage points). For people without disabilities (ages 16-64), the employment-to-population ratio increased from 75.2 percent in October 2023 to 75.3 percent in November 2023 (up 0.1 percent or 0.1 percentage points). 

The employment-to-population ratio 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). While this ratio for people with disabilities is still much lower than that for people without disabilities, it’s slowly but surely trending in the right direction.

Graphic credit: Kessler Foundation

“In November, the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities reached an all-time high, topping 38 percent for the first time since the data started being collected in 2008,” said John O’Neill, PhD, director of the Center for Employment and Disability Research at Kessler Foundation, in a press release. “This is excellent news particularly considering that the employment trend for people without disabilities remains flat,” he added.

Similarly, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities (ages 16-64) increased from 40.4 percent in October 2023 to 41.5 percent in November 2023 (up 2.7 percent or 1.1 percentage points). For people without disabilities (ages 16-64), the labor force participation rate decreased from 78 percent in October 2023 to 77.8 percent in November 2023 (down 0.3 percent or 0.2 percentage points). 

The labor force participation rate reflects the percentage of people who are in the labor force (working, on temporary layoff (on furlough), or actively looking for work in the last four weeks) relative to the total population (the number of people in the labor force divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).

“While the overall economy is cooling, people with disabilities are engaging in the labor force at record rates,” said Andrew Houtenville, PhD, professor of economics and research director of the UNH-IOD. “Of course, there is a long way to go before the gap between people with and without disabilities is closed.”

Numbers Also Up From a Year Ago

The employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities (ages 16-64) increased from 36.5 percent in November 2022 to 38.3 percent in November 2023 (up 4.9 percent or 1.8 percentage points). For people without disabilities (ages 16-64), the employment-to-population ratio increased from 74.4 percent in November 2022 to 75.3 percent in November 2023 (up 1.2 percent or 0.9 percentage points).

Likewise, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities (ages 16-64) increased from 38.8 percent in November 2022 to 41.5 percent in November 2023 (up 7.0 percent or 2.7 percentage points). For people without disabilities (ages 16-64), the labor force participation rate increased from 76.9 percent in November 2022 to 77.8 percent in November 2023 (up 1.2 percent or 0.9 percentage points).

In November, among workers ages 16-64, the 6,460,000 workers with disabilities represented 4.3 percent of the total 150,966,000 workers in the U.S.

Graphic credit: Kessler Foundation

Source: nTIDE November 2023 Jobs Report: People with Disabilities Buck Cooling Trend, Reaching New Employment Highs

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