Despite a dip in employment numbers for people with disabilities in December, experts remain optimistic about their prospects in 2019, a monthly update from the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability finds.
In a Bureau of Labor Statistics Jobs Report released January 4, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities fell to 30.4 percent in December, down from 30.8 percent in December 2017, a drop of 1.3 percent, while for working-age people without disabilities the ratio rose to 74.1 percent from 73.3 percent, an increase of 1.1 percent. The report also found that the labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities who are working or actively looking for work fell to 33.3 percent from 33.8 percent in December, a drop of 1.5 percent, while for working-age people without disabilities the rate rose to 76.9 percent from 76.1 percent, an increase of 1.1 percent. Among workers between the ages of 16 and 64, the 4.699 million people with disabilities employed in December represented 3.2 percent of the 146.531 million people employed in the U.S.
"From February 2016 until May 2018, we saw steady improvement in the employment situation for people with disabilities," said John O'Neill, director of employment and disability research at the Kessler Foundation. "However, over the past seven months, we have seen both improvements and declines in the employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate for people with disabilities. This fluctuating data pattern is disappointing because this tight labor market should be producing steady employment gains see for Americans with disabilities."
"This was only the third month in 2018 that we didn't see improvement in the job numbers for people with disabilities," said Andrew Houtenville, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability. "Three months of declines over the entire year does not constitute a trend, given that the economy continues to show signs of strength. We will be watching this closely in the New Year."
According to John DeLuca, senior vice president for research and training at the foundation, attaining maximal functional independence is fundamental to achieving employment goals for people with disabilities. To that end, Kessler's Postdoctoral Training Program familiarizes scientists from the United States and abroad in the skills and methodology needed to conduct research that improves the everyday lives of people with various neurological conditions, while its Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment is focused on providing training in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania specific to employment opportunities.