In its first detailed look at employment for workers with disabilities, the federal government reports that these workers are far more likely than people without disabilities to be out of work or working only part-time.
According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 19.2 percent of all Americans with disabilities are earning a paycheck, compared to 64.5 percent of Americans without disabilities. Of those with disabilities who are working, nearly one third are employed only part time.
The BLS also reported that the average unemployment rate for workers with disabilities was 16.4 percent as of July, up sharply from 14.5 percent last year. For those without disabilities, the unemployment rate last year was 9 percent. About 8 in 10 persons with disabilities are not considered part of the labor force because they aren’t looking for or holding a job. That compares to 3 in 10 people without disabilities.
Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary for the Labor Department’s office of disability employment policy, says some employers are hesitant to hire disabled workers because they fear added costs to provide special accommodations or additional training. In some cases this could be considered discrimination, which is illegal. “The biggest barrier for us is attitude and fear-the misconception of what hiring people with a disability might mean,” she said.
… That the overall jobless rates tend to be higher among workers with disabilities is partly a symptom of the recession and partly the result of a system that places income support – such as disability benefits – over employment assistance, said Andrew Houtenville, an economist and the research director of the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire.
“We have really low expectations for the population with disabilities as a system,” said Mr. Houtenville. “We want to provide people with financial supportâ€¦but we have to do a better job providing employment services in a very timely fashion.”