Part 2 of our Unemployment Series – A Closer Look at the Employment Status for Disabled Americans

As we continue our series on the unemployment status in certain, vital sectors of the labor market, we take a closer look at individuals with disabilities.

While the national unemployment rate hovers slightly below eight (8) percent, the unemployment rate for disabled Americans is higher than the national average, standing at 13.7 percent (down from 15% in 2011). Non-disabled Americans currently enjoy a 68.9 percent participation rate in the labor market while disabled Americans participation in the labor market is comparatively lower at 20.8 percent, according to current statistics provided by the U.S. U.S Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary, released in June 2012, individuals with disabilities experience several unique challenges, including (but not limited to):

  • For all age groups, the employment-population ratio was much lower for persons with a disability than for those with no disability.
  • One-third of workers with a disability (33%) were employed part-time, compared with about one-fifth (20%) of those with no disability.
  • Employed persons with a disability were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability.
  • Persons with a disability tend to be older than persons with no disability, reflecting the increased incidence of disability with age. In 2011, 45 percent of persons with a disability were age 65 and over, compared with just 13 percent of those with no disability.
  • Among persons with a disability, the jobless rate for men (15.3%) was slightly higher than women (14.7%). And rates of unemployment were higher among African Americans (23.5%) and Hispanics (20.3%), as compared to Whites (13.7%) and Asians (11%). [i]

Regardless of characteristics, the challenges for disabled Americans seeking employment can be great. Fortunately, there are programs and resources available to help create equal opportunities for all.

For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates provisions that make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against prospective job applicants with a disability, barring that the candidate has the qualifications for the position. Employers have to make reasonable accommodations available to meet the needs of workers with disabilities.

Other mandates, like Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is one of the driving forces in protecting the equal opportunity employment rights of individuals with disabilities.

There are also numerous federal and state programs available to assist with training for this work group, such as the Americans with Disabilities National Network, which provides regional network centers. Programs such as Ticket to Work, administered by the Social Security Administration, help disabled Americans explore work options, including work-related services, vocational rehabilitation and more.  Similarly, eligible individuals with disability status can apply for and be appointed to positions in Federal agencies without competition.

If you are a disabled American, be sure to research and leverage job boards such as America’s Job Exchange, and stay tuned for more information about our soon-to-be-launched Disabilities Job Exchange and Veterans Job Exchange.  These resources are specifically designed and tailored to meet the unique needs and requirements of diverse job seekers, including individuals with disabilities. To search for employers looking for candidates with your unique qualifications, visit here!


[i] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release – Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics Summary

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