Employment for People With Disabilities at Historic Highs, New Report Says

Employment for People With Disabilities at Historic Highs, New Report Says

People with disabilities in the U.S. continue to find jobs at historic levels, according to the latest National Trends in Disability Employment, a semi-monthly update issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD).

Increases in both labor force participation and employment indicate that people with disabilities are not only striving to work but succeeding in finding jobs. Both indicators remained flat for people without disabilities.

This graphic compares the labor market indicators for April 2024 and May 2024, showing increases in the labor force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities. Both indicators decreased slightly for people without disabilities. Source: The Kessler Foundation

Based on data from the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities ages 16-64 increased from 40.6 percent in April 2024 to 41.7 percent in May 2024. For people without disabilities ages 16-64, the labor force participation rate decreased from 77.8 percent in April 2024 to 77.7 percent in May 2024.

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).

“People with disabilities are engaging in the labor market, either working or actively looking for work, at historically high rates,” said Andrew Houtenville, professor of economics and research director of the UNH-IOD. “This trend may reflect opportunities for employment given labor market shortages in many parts of the country, although it may also reflect people seeking to support themselves and their families given recent increases in the cost of living.”

In May, the employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities ages 16-64 increased from 37.9 percent in April 2024 to 38.3 percent in May 2024. For people without disabilities ages 16-64, the employment-to-population ratio decreased from 75.1 percent in April 2024 to 74.9 percent in May 2024. 

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).

“People with disabilities saw gains in their employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate,” noted John O’Neil, director of the Center for Employment and Disability Research at Kessler Foundation. “Together, these increases show that people with disabilities continue to strive for work and are succeeding in finding jobs,” he added.

This graphic compares the labor market indicators for May 2023 and May 2024, showing increases in the employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate for people with disabilities. For people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio declined slightly, and the labor force participation rate increased. Source: Kessler Foundation

The employment-to-population ratio for people with disabilities ages 16-64 increased from 36.9 percent in May 2023 to 38.3 percent in May 2024. For people without disabilities ages 16-64, the employment-to-population ratio decreased from 75.0 percent in May 2023 to 74.9 percent in May 2024.

The labor force participation rate for people with disabilities ages 16-64 increased from 40.2 percent in May 2023 to 41.7 percent in May 2024. For people without disabilities ages 16-64, the labor force participation rate also increased from 77.6 percent in May 2023 to 77.7 percent in May 2024.

In May, among workers ages 16-64, the 6,490,000 workers with disabilities represented 4.3 percent of the total 150,139,000 workers in the U.S.

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