WEST ORANGE, N.J., March 6, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For the fifth consecutive month, employment for workers with disabilities continued to grow, 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). Corporations and nonprofits are supporting opportunities for this population.
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Jobs Report released Friday, March 6, the labor force participation rate increased substantially for working-age people with disabilities—from 29.5 percent in February 2014 to 31.1 percent in February 2015 (up 5.4 percent; 1.6 percentage points). For people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate decreased slightly from 75.9 percent in February 2014 to 75.7 percent in February 2015 (down 0.3 percent; 0.2 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.
"We are witnessing more Americans with disabilities actively looking for work and securing employment when compared to last year," according to John O'Neill, Ph.D., director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. "This upward trend is a major reversal from what we have been seeing since first releasing the nTIDE report in March 2013."
For working-age people with disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 24.6 percent in February 2014 to 27.3 percent in February 2015 (up 11 percent; 2.7 percentage points). For people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio increased slightly from 70.7 percent in February 2014 to 71.4 percent in February 2015 (up 1 percent; 0.7 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). In comparison to February 2014, 442,000 more Americans with disabilities are in the workforce.
"This could mean that the economic recovery from the Great Recession is finally including people with disabilities. It will take more time to determine whether this is the case," said Andrew J. Houtenville, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and research director at UNH-IOD.
National corporations are boosting job opportunities for individuals with disabilities. In 2013, Kessler Foundation awarded a $450,000 grant to the nonprofit Ability Beyond to expand a disability employment initiative with PepsiCo, called Pepsi ACT (Achieving Change Together). Piloted in Las Vegas, Minnesota and Texas, the project increases the hiring and retention of jobseekers with disabilities. In one year, PepsiCo hired 60 individuals with disabilities and 46 remain working—a 13 percent increase over its national average. Positions are full-time and eligible for benefits.
At PepsiCo's Las Vegas Certified Center, Manager Julio Padilla supervises 43 employees, half of whom have disabilities. "They are incredible workers—willing and eager to learn, and focused on productivity and meeting team goals," said Padilla. "It didn't take me long to realize that I wasn't hiring people with disabilities, I was hiring the best people for the job." The initiative continues to be implemented throughout PepsiCo's U.S. distribution centers. Under the Pepsi ACT initiative, a pilot call center has also opened in North Carolina.
In February 2015, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,246,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.1 percent of the total 138,857,000 workers in the U.S.
"The statistics in nTIDE are not seasonally adjusted," noted Dr. O'Neill. "Because disability employment data have been collected for so few years, more time is needed for seasonal trends to become evident."
The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, April 3, 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, 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.
For more information, or to interview an expert, contact:
Lauren Scrivo, 973.768.6583, LScrivo@KesslerFoundation.org
Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382, CMurphy@KesslerFoundation.org