WEST ORANGE, N.J. – March 4, 2016. As job growth continues for people without disabilities, the two major economic indicators declined for people with disabilities, according to today's National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). Research is being conducted in various populations with disabilities to determine the specific factors that limit participation in the workplace. Results will guide the development of policies and programs that will expand employment opportunities.
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Jobs Report released Friday, March 4, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities decreased from 27.3 percent in February 2015 to 26.0 percent in February 2016 (down 4.8 percent; 1.3 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio increased from 71.4 percent in February 2015 to 72.3 percent in February 2016 (up 1.3 percent; 0.9 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).
“The decline in employment had been slowing the past few months, with almost no change last month; however, February saw the decline return
to its previous pace. This is disheartening news after the good news we saw in 2015,” said Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at UNH.
The labor force participation rate of people with disabilities decreased from 31.1 percent in February 2015 to 30.2 percent in February 2016 (down 2.9 percent; 0.9 percentage points). For people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate increased from 75.7 percent in February 2015 to 76.1 percent in February 2016 (up 0.5 percent; 0.4 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.
“In the long term, we hope to be able to explain what is driving the monthly employment trend for people with disabilities. The official data on the employment of people with disabilities only dates back to September 2009, after the start of the Great Recession. This may seem like a long time, but it is still not quite long enough be able to distinguish differential macroeconomic effects between people with and without disabilities,” according to John O’Neill, Ph.D., director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. “We are working on a process to seasonally adjust these statistics, which will help us see how employment is responding month-to-month, rather than comparing to the same month last year.”
Two disabling neurological conditions share March Awareness Month – multiple sclerosis (MS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). These conditions share other things as well, including causing an array of cognitive, emotional and physical disabilities, and presenting barriers to finding and maintaining employment. Because employment is fundamental to productive and independent living, research is underway at Kessler Foundation to address the spectrum of challenges faced by individuals living with MS and TBI.
“MS strikes people in their prime,” said Dr. O’Neill, “and many leave the workplace prematurely, a decision that can be detrimental to quality of life. Our researchers are looking at what factors into this decision, toward the goal of developing a predictive model of employment for the MS population. Health care providers using this tool would be better able to help people retain their jobs.”
Researchers are also looking at the factors affecting employment after TBI. “Studies show that employment status at one year post-injury is a key determinant of life satisfaction,” Dr. O’Neill noted, “but this diverse population faces substantial challenges. How to help to overcome those challenges is being investigated. Some important factors have been identified by researchers, including pre-injury employment and education, the cause of brain injury, whether amnesia occurred and for how long, the length of time spent in acute care and in rehabilitation, and vocational scores at discharge from rehabilitation.”
In February 2016, among workers ages 16-64, the 3,975,000 workers with disabilities represented 2.8 percent of the total 141,290,000 workers in the U.S.
The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, April 1, 2016—no fooling.
Learn more about this National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) Jobs Report and future releases by joining a new Lunch & Learn series, starting today March 4 at 12:00PM EST. This live broadcast hosted via Zoom Webinar will offer attendees Q&A on the latest nTIDE findings, provide news and updates from the field of Disability Employment, as well as host invited panelists to discuss current disability related findings and events. Join live, or watch the recordings at www.ResearchonDisability.org/nTIDE.
NOTE: The statistics in the National Trends in Disability Employment – Update are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, but are NOT identical. They have been customized by the University of New Hampshire to efficiently 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) (H133B130015 & H133B120005) and Kessler Foundation.
About Kessler Foundation
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.
About the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire
The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was established in 1987 to provide a coherent university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. For information on the NIDILRR-funded Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, visit http://www.ResearchonDisability.org/home/nTIDE .
For more information, or to interview an expert, contact:
Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382, CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org