WEST ORANGE, N.J., Sept. 4, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For the eleventh consecutive month, Americans with disabilities continue to make employment gains as they enter the workforce; although, August shows a slight lull in the percentage looking for work, 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). As the country prepares to celebrate Labor Day, there are many encouraging signs that people with disabilities are participating in the economic gains that result from an active and growing workforce.
In the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Jobs Report released Friday, September 4, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 26.3 percent in August 2014 to 26.9 percent in August 2015 (up 2.3 percent; 0.6 percentage point). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio slightly increased from 71.9 percent in August 2014 to 72.4 percent in August 2015 (up 0.7 percent; 0.5 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 August 2014, 102,000 more Americans with disabilities are in the workforce.
"The improvement in the proportion of people with disabilities working continues to outpace improvements made by people without disabilities." according to John O'Neill, Ph.D., director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. "The relative magnitude of these gains, however, is smaller this month compared to the previous several months."
In contrast, the labor force participation rate of people with disabilities decreased from 30.7 percent in August 2014 to 30.4 percent in August 2015 (down 1.0 percent; 0.3 percentage points). For people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also decreased from 76.5 percent in August 2014 to 76.3 percent in August 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.
"In contrast to the previous ten months, the labor force participation of people with disabilities declined, albeit slightly," said Andrew J. Houtenville, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and research director at UNH-IOD. "Given the increase in the employment-to-population ratio, the fall in labor force participation rate is due to a reduction in the number of people with disabilities looking for work. It is always difficult to know whether this is a positive or negative sign. People may become discouraged and stop looking, and some of those who were looking for work may have found work."
According to the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Disability and Employment Survey, more than 68 percent of people with disabilities are striving to work, including those who are working, actively seeking employment and preparing for the workplace. According to the survey, the top strategies people are using for preparing for work are obtaining medical and rehabilitative treatment, getting help from friends and furthering their education. Like their counterparts without disabilities, people with disabilities who are searching for jobs are successfully using online resources, connecting with opportunities through friends and relatives and contacting employers directly.
"On Labor Day, we acknowledge the social and economic gains that come from hard work," said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. "A big part of the American dream is to start a career and achieve prosperity. Too often, people with disabilities have faced barriers in the pursuit of their dreams. This survey shows, however, that Americans with disabilities are succeeding in overcoming barriers and seeking employment. Once employed, they are looking for more hours. As more people with disabilities offer their talents to society and the workplace, we should also see economic gains since people with disabilities will have more disposable income to make purchases in addition to paying taxes."
In August 2015, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,267,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.0 percent of the total 140,817,000 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, October 2, 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
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