nTIDE Jobs Report: Solid Economic Gains Include Job Growth for Americans with Disabilities

WEST ORANGE, NJ, Jan. 9, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As the overall economy continues to grow, more Americans with disabilities are earning a paycheck for the third consecutive month, reflecting a positive end to 2014, 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). Innovative programs are supporting the transition from school to careers for students with disabilities.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Jobs Report released Friday, January 9, the labor force participation rate increased substantially from 29.1 percent in December 2013 to 31.7 percent in December 2014 (up 8.9 percent; 2.6 percentage points) for working-age people with disabilities. While for people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate increased only slightly from 70.9 percent in December 2013 to 71.8 percent in December 2014 (up 1.3 percent; 0.9 percentage points) for working-age people with disabilities. The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

"This is terrific news for people with disabilities. For the first time since September 2013, we are seeing an increase in the labor participation rate. Americans with disabilities are reentering the labor market. We'll be watching the numbers closely and we are hopeful that the positive upswing will continue in 2015," according to John O'Neill, Ph.D., director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation.

The employment-to-population ratio also increased from 25.2 percent in December 2013 to 27.8 percent in December 2014 (up 10.3 percent; 2.6 percentage points) for working-age people with disabilities. In contrast, the employment-to-population ratio held steady at 25.2 percent in December 2013 and December 2014 for people without disabilities. 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).

"For the third month in a row, we are seeing an increase in employment for people with disabilities." said Andrew J. Houtenville, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and research director at UNH-IOD. "In comparison to December 2013, 526,000 more Americans with disabilities are participating in paid work."

New strategies have been developed to advance the transition from college to finding employment for students with disabilities. With a $437,888 Signature Employment Grant from Kessler Foundation in 2013, San Diego State University (SDSU), University of California, Berkeley and California State University, Fullerton are collaborating with PolicyWorks to implement "Bridging the Gap from College to Careers."The initiative offers the Professional Development and Disability course for academic credit to undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities; the course integrates evidence-based practices that help students develop personally and professionally. They also receive work experience and internships, peer and professional mentorships and long-term placement assistance.

"While college graduates are three to five times more likely to find employment, only half of college students with disabilities are finding work. They have the education and knowledge, but still struggle to start their careers," said Caren Sax, principal investigator of the "Bridging the Gap from College to Careers" program for the SDSU Research Foundation. "We build on the career center resources currently available to students and offer hands-on practice that builds confidence and teaches strategies for success. Students come into the course not realizing what they don't know and walk out of it feeling ready to tackle the world of employment!"

In December 2014, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,352,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.1 percent of the total 139,050,000 workers in the U.S.

"The nTIDE data are not seasonally adjusted," noted Dr. O'Neill. "Because the collection of disability employment statistics began only a few years ago, it will take more time for seasonal trends to become evident."

The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, February 6, 2015.

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 and Rehabilitation Research (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 NIDRR-funded Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, visit http://www.ResearchonDisability.org.

CONTACT: For more information, or to interview an expert, contact: Lauren Scrivo, 973.768.6583, LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382, CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.orgSource: Kessler Foundation EST