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Breaking News: New Jobs for People with Disabilities, 4X the Previous Year – 343,483 new jobs for people with disabilities!

  • Floridians with disabilities experience the biggest jobs gains of any state, with more than 35,000 people with disabilities entering the workforce.
  • Employers hire more people with disabilities as they find that recruiting, hiring and retaining employees with disabilities benefits their bottom line.

Washington, D.C., Feb. 22 – As America’s governors gather in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting, new statistics show that Americans with disabilities are entering the workforce in unprecedented numbers for the first time. New data from the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire reveals that 343,483 more people with disabilities joined the American workforce in 2016. This compares to only 87,201 in the previous year. Even while Americans with disabilities are entering the workforce in greater numbers, serious gaps in employment exist between different states. For example, 54 percent of working-age people with disabilities in North Dakota have jobs, while only 27.4 percent of people with disabilities in West Virginia are employed.

NEW DATA

According to the 2017 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium,only 35.9 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community had a job, compared to 76.9 percent for people without disabilities. However, this is an increase from the previous year, which was 34.9 percent. Out of almost 20 million working-age people with disabilities, only 7.4 million people with disabilities have a job in 2016. A new poll released by RespectAbility shows that millions of people with disabilities are striving to work and that they want to work.

Driving success and inclusion are companies including JP Morgan Chase, Pepsi, UPS, SAP, EY, IBM, Starbucksand Walgreens. These companies have seen that people with disabilities are successful employees who improve businesses’ bottom lines.

However, looking at topline national statistics only tells part of the story. State-specific data compiled by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics (StatsRRTC) shows massive differences among states. In fact, there are some states where people with disabilities are twice as likely to be employed as in other states.

BEST STATES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

North Dakota leads the nation with 54 percent of its citizens with disabilities employed. It is closely followed by South Dakota, where 51.6 percent of people with disabilities have a job. Fully 48 percent of Minnesotans with disabilities are employed. Other top 10 states include Alaska with a 47.9-percent employment rate for people with disabilities, Nebraska with a 47.4-percent disability employment rate, Wyoming with 47.2 percent, Utah with 47 percent, Iowa with 45.9 percent, and Kansas with 44.7 percent. Montana, under Governor Steve Bullock has, for the first time, joined the top 10 states with the best disability employment rates.

Table 1 – Top 10 States for Workers with Disabilities
State Ranking State Total # of PwDs (Aged 18-64) # of

PwDs

Employed

Total # Jobs Gained + or Lost – Percentage of PwDs Employed
1 ND 43,089 23,286 +4,704 54%
2 SD 51,003 26,323 – 96 51.5%
3 MN 302,274 145,080 +3,823 48%
4 AK 50,330 24,090 +4,139 47.9%
5 NE 112,418 53,323 +3,838 47.4%
6 WY 39,161 18,485 – 3,023 47.2%
7 UT 159,024 74,767 +3,582 47%
8 IA 175,367 80,416 – 2,975 45.9%
9 KS 188,671 84,262 +5,130 44.7%
10 MT 76,169 33,419 +4,459 43.9%

Comparing the number of working-age people with disabilities employed in 2016 to the 2015 numbers reveals that Floridians with disabilities experienced the biggest jobs gains of any state in the nation, with 35,480 entering the workforce. The second largest growth was in the state of Georgia, where 28,000 working-age people with disabilities got jobs. In terms of the largest states in the nation, California added 19,398 working-age people with disabilities to the workforce, while Texas added 17,736 Texans with disabilities to their state workforce last year.

Alaska had the biggest percentage point gain in disability employment rates, going up 5.5 percentage points, followed by North Dakota’s 5.2 percentage point gain in jobs. Idahoans with disabilities have also seen a big increase with their employment rate rising from 38.3 percent in 2015 to 43.3 percent in 2016. South Carolina has also seen an increase in the number of people with disabilities working, with more than 23,000 getting jobs. Just as looking at the employment rates is a key part of the story of workers with disabilities, so too is the employment gap between people with and without disabilities.

GAPS IN EMPLOYMENT

Looking at the employment gap, which is the difference in employment rates between people with and without disabilities, reveals how far behind people with disabilities are falling in a state’s economy. The smaller the gap, the more inclusive a given state’s economy is, which translates into more opportunities for people to earn an income and become independent. The bigger the gap means fewer jobs for people with disabilities compared to their non-disabled peers.

Alaska shows great success with only a 28.2 percentage point gap, the smallest gap of any state. According to the new data, Rhode Island had a 48.6 percentage point gap in employment.

WHAT WORKS?

Looking beyond the data, two questions emerge – What works to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and what can state leaders do to improve outcomes?

“States including Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Alaska show how a commitment to school-to-work transitions can create brighter futures for young people with disabilities,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility. “Pennsylvania and Minnesota have brought Employment First policies and a collaborative approach around transitions which has resulted in thousands of new jobs for their constituents with disabilities.”

Nationally, there already are two models that are achieving extraordinary success with work-based learning opportunities: Project SEARCH and Bridges from School to Work. SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. Likewise, Bridges offers assessments, workshops and job matching. SEARCH has grown to more than 300 programs in 46 states and served nearly 3,000 youth in 2015. Among those young people, more than 78 percent found jobs. These are transformative results for people with disabilities.

LINKING EXPECTATIONS, EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT

“Employment rates only tell part of the story,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, Policy and Practices Director at RespectAbility. “Educational attainment is critical to the success of youth with disabilities because the jobs of the future require technical education and skill training.”

Despite progress made in recent years, students with disabilities are lagging significantly behind their nondisabled peers in educational attainment. Nationally, only 65 percent of students with disabilities complete high school, and less than seven percent of people with disabilities complete college. For youth of color with disabilities and English Language Learners with disabilities, their outcomes are even worse. Key barriers include low expectations and the fact that many school systems either fail to diagnose our kids early enough or address their issues at all. This often pushes children with disabilities into the school-to-prison pipeline. Appropriate early intervention, positive supports, and basic training for educators, parents, and guardians are vital.

SPECIAL NOTE – INTERSECTIONS WITH RACE, DISABILITY AND EMPLOYMENT

Even as companies are driving inclusion and states are finding success, there are still people left behind.

“Just as looking at the state-level employment rates tells a more complex story, so too when you look at the employment rates among people with disabilities across racial lines, you find serious gaps in outcomes,” Kahn-Pauli said.

Only 28.4 percent of African-Americans, 37.4 percent of Hispanics, and 40 percent of Asian Americans with disabilities have jobs. Indeed, out of at least 3,311,789 working-age African-Americans with disabilities, only 942,159 have jobs. Among the 2,924,914 working-age Hispanics with disabilities,only 1,093,063 have jobs. Out of the 516,555 working-age Asian Americans with disabilities, only 209,698 have jobs in the community.

WHAT’S NEXT? BUILDING ON THE SUCCESS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

“The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, strong actions by many governors, and more positive portrayals of people with disabilities on TV are starting to have a positive impact. It is fantastic to see the four-fold improvement in one year,” said Mizrahi. The annual Disability Statistics Compendium and the monthly Trends in Disability Employment report show signs for continuing hope as the more people with disabilities enter the labor market.

“At the end of the day, our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” Mizrahi said. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”

Table 2 – Compiled Table
State Total # of Working-Age PWDs    
Total # of PWDs with Jobs PWD Employment Rate Employment Gap in % Pts. # of Job Gains/Losses Among PWDs 2015-2016
AL 421,135 115,799 27.5 45.5 -5,531
AK 50,330 24,090 47.9 28.2 4,139
AZ 432,087 150,434 34.8 39.7 7,266
AR 269,725 85,447 31.7 43 4,071
CA 2,023,714 701,791 34.7 39.5 19,398
CO 308,342 131,658 42.7 37 14,846
CT 191,687 74,715 39 39.8 7,198
DE 56,546 20,284 35.9 39.9 1,691
FL 1,255,268 404,685 32.2 42.9 35,480
GA 698,283 236,577 33.9 41.8 28,642
HI 66,031 26,356 39.9 38.7 715
ID 115,652 50,090 43.3 33.8 4,966
IL 679,862 242,783 35.7 42 9,550
IN 485,824 175,379 36.1 43 5,329
IA 175,367 80,416 45.9 36.6 -2,975
KS 188,671 84,262 44.7 35.5 5,130
KY 439,748 133,926 30.5 44.9 18,349
LA 384,377 120,443 31.3 41.6 -2,389
ME 109,376 36,357 33.2 47.3 2,305
MD 334,505 137,517 41.1 39.1 5,944
MA 390,729 150,647 38.6 41.4 12,662
MI 764,335 254,334 33.3 43 19,978
MN 302,274 145,080 48 35.8 3,823
MS 258,824 76,078 29.4 41.9 4,739
MO 468,140 164,243 35.1 44.1 669
MT 76,169 33,419 43.9 35.3 4,459
NE 112,418 53,323 47.4 36.5 3,838
NV 198,826 83,453 42 34.1 -106
NH 88,094 36,745 41.7 41.1 1,355
NJ 435,265 159,575 36.7 40.6 -3,153
NM 153,667 49,084 31.9 40 945
NY 1,109,370 367,478 33.1 42.4 5,081
NC 722,636 249,230 34.5 41.2 14,556
ND 43,089 23,286 54 30.2 4,704
OH 851,743 304,940 35.8 42.7 6,707
OK 334,056 123,568 37 38.4 11,896
OR 303,115 118,914 39.2 37.7 -2,241
PA 909,897 323,354 35.5 42.2 6,993
RI 76,763 23,029 30 48.6 -3,477
SC 388,251 129,766 33.4 42.1 23,416
SD 51,003 26,323 51.6 30.7 -96
TN 558,852 174,370 31.2 44.9 7,191
TX 1,653,862 644,181 39 36.9 17,736
UT 159,024 74,767 47 31.9 3,582
VT 49,458 20,506 41.5 39.6 931
VA 496,928 193,632 39 39.7 14,479
WA 494,903 193,792 39.2 38.1 15,871
WV 194,669 53,372 27.4 43.4 5,855
WI 344,120 143,726 41.8 40.4 -1,089
WY 39,161 18,485 47.2 32.3 -3,023

Table 3 – Ranking of States Best to Worst Employment for People with Disabilities
State Percentage
ND 54
SD 51.6
MN 48
AK 47.9
NE 47.4
WY 47.2
UT 47
IA 45.9
KS 44.7
MT 43.9
ID 43.3
CO 42.7
NV 42
WI 41.8
NH 41.7
VT 41.5
MD 41.1
HI 39.9
OR 39.2
WA 39.2
CT 39
TX 39
VA 39
MA 38.6
OK 37
NJ 36.7
IN 36.1
DE 35.9
OH 35.8
IL 35.7
PA 35.5
MO 35.1
AZ 34.8
CA 34.7
NC 34.5
GA 33.9
SC 33.4
MI 33.3
ME 33.2
NY 33.1
FL 32.2
NM 31.9
AR 31.7
LA 31.3
TN 31.2
KY 30.5
RI 30
MS 29.4
AL 27.5
WV 27.4
Table 4 – Employment Among People with Disabilities, living in the community, by state – 2017
State Total Employed
Count %
U.S. 20,761,092 7,461,001 35.9
AL 421,135 115,799 27.5
AK 50,330 24,090 47.9
AZ 432,087 150,434 34.8
AR 269,725 85,447 31.7
CA 2,023,714 701,791 34.7
CO 308,342 131,658 42.7
CT 191,687 74,715 39
DE 56,546 20,284 35.9
FL 1,255,268 404,685 32.2
GA 698,283 236,577 33.9
HI 66,031 26,356 39.9
ID 115,652 50,090 43.3
IL 679,862 242,783 35.7
IN 485,824 175,379 36.1
IA 175,367 80,416 45.9
KS 188,671 84,262 44.7
KY 439,748 133,926 30.5
LA 384,377 120,443 31.3
ME 109,376 36,357 33.2
MD 334,505 137,517 41.1
MA 390,729 150,647 38.6
MI 764,335 254,334 33.3
MN 302,274 145,080 48
MS 258,824 76,078 29.4
MO 468,140 164,243 35.1
MT 76,169 33,419 43.9
NE 112,418 53,323 47.4
NV 198,826 83,453 42
NH 88,094 36,745 41.7
NJ 435,265 159,575 36.7
NM 153,667 49,084 31.9
NY 1,109,370 367,478 33.1
NC 722,636 249,230 34.5
ND 43,089 23,286 54
OH 851,743 304,940 35.8
OK 334,056 123,568 37
OR 303,115 118,914 39.2
PA 909,897 323,354 35.5
RI 76,763 23,029 30
SC 388,251 129,766 33.4
SD 51,003 26,323 51.6
TN 558,852 174,370 31.2
TX 1,653,862 644,181 39
UT 159,024 74,767 47
VT 49,458 20,506 41.5
VA 496,928 193,632 39
WA 494,903 193,792 39.2
WV 194,669 53,372 27.4
WI 344,120 143,726 41.8
WY 39,161 18,485 47.2
Table 5 – Total Job Gains and Losses among People with Disabilities in the States – 2015 to 2016
State 2016 PWDs Employed State 2015 Employed Job Gaines or Losses
Count   Count  
U.S. 7,461,001 U.S. 7,117,518 343,483
AL 115,799 AL 121,330 -5,531
AK 24,090 AK 19,951 4,139
AZ 150,434 AZ 143,168 7,266
AR 85,447 AR 81,376 4,071
CA 701,791 CA 682,393 19,398
CO 131,658 CO 116,812 14,846
CT 74,715 CT 67,517 7,198
DE 20,284 DE 18,593 1,691
FL 404,685 FL 369,205 35,480
GA 236,577 GA 207,935 28,642
HI 26,356 HI 25,641 715
ID 50,090 ID 45,124 4,966
IL 242,783 IL 233,233 9,550
IN 175,379 IN 170,050 5,329
IA 80,416 IA 83,391 -2,975
KS 84,262 KS 79,132 5,130
KY 133,926 KY 115,577 18,349
LA 120,443 LA 122,832 -2,389
ME 36,357 ME 34,052 2,305
MD 137,517 MD 131,573 5,944
MA 150,647 MA 137,985 12,662
MI 254,334 MI 234,356 19,978
MN 145,080 MN 141,257 3,823
MS 76,078 MS 71,339 4,739
MO 164,243 MO 163,574 669
MT 33,419 MT 28,960 4,459
NE 53,323 NE 49,485 3,838
NV 83,453 NV 83,559 -106
NH 36,745 NH 35,390 1,355
NJ 159,575 NJ 162,728 -3,153
NM 49,084 NM 48,139 945
NY 367,478 NY 362,397 5,081
NC 249,230 NC 234,674 14,556
ND 23,286 ND 18,582 4,704
OH 304,940 OH 298,233 6,707
OK 123,568 OK 111,672 11,896
OR 118,914 OR 121,155 -2,241
PA 323,354 PA 316,361 6,993
RI 23,029 RI 26,506 -3,477
SC 129,766 SC 106,350 23,416
SD 26,323 SD 26,419 -96
TN 174,370 TN 167,179 7,191
TX 644,181 TX 626,445 17,736
UT 74,767 UT 71,185 3,582
VT 20,506 VT 19,575 931
VA 193,632 VA 179,153 14,479
WA 193,792 WA 177,921 15,871
WV 53,372 WV 47,517 5,855
WI 143,726 WI 144,815 -1,089
WY 18,485 WY 21,508 -3,023
Table 6 – States Ranked by Employment Gap
State Employment Rate for PWDs Employment rate for Non-PWDs Employment Gap in % Pts.
AK 47.9 76.1 28.2
ND 54 84.2 30.2
SD 51.6 82.3 30.7
UT 47 78.9 31.9
WY 47.2 79.5 32.3
ID 43.3 77.1 33.8
NV 42 76.1 34.1
MT 43.9 79.2 35.3
KS 44.7 80.2 35.5
MN 48 83.8 35.8
NE 47.4 83.9 36.5
IA 45.9 82.5 36.6
TX 39 75.9 36.9
CO 42.7 79.7 37
OR 39.2 76.9 37.7
WA 39.2 77.3 38.1
OK 37 75.4 38.4
HI 39.9 78.6 38.7
MD 41.1 80.2 39.1
CA 34.7 74.2 39.5
VT 41.5 81.1 39.6
AZ 34.8 74.5 39.7
VA 39 78.7 39.7
CT 39 78.8 39.8
DE 35.9 75.8 39.9
NM 31.9 71.9 40
WI 41.8 82.2 40.4
NJ 36.7 77.3 40.6
NH 41.7 82.8 41.1
NC 34.5 75.7 41.2
MA 38.6 80 41.4
LA 31.3 72.9 41.6
GA 33.9 75.7 41.8
MS 29.4 71.3 41.9
IL 35.7 77.7 42
SC 33.4 75.5 42.1
PA 35.5 77.7 42.2
NY 33.1 75.5 42.4
OH 35.8 78.5 42.7
FL 32.2 75.1 42.9
AR 31.7 74.7 43
IN 36.1 79.1 43
MI 33.3 76.3 43
WV 27.4 70.8 43.4
MO 35.1 79.2 44.1
KY 30.5 75.4 44.9
TN 31.2 76.1 44.9
AL 27.5 73 45.5
ME 33.2 80.5 47.3
RI 30 78.6 48.6
Table 7 – Percentage Change in Employment Rate by State
State      
2016% 2015% % Change
AL 27.5 27.9 -0.4
AK 47.9 42.4 5.5
AZ 34.8 34.2 0.6
AR 31.7 30.7 1
CA 34.7 33.8 0.9
CO 42.7 40.8 1.9
CT 39 35.4 3.6
DE 35.9 33.9 2
DC 34 31.4 2.6
FL 32.2 31.1 1.1
GA 33.9 31.6 2.3
HI 39.9 40.2 -0.3
ID 43.3 38.3 5
IL 35.7 34.9 0.8
IN 36.1 35.6 0.5
IA 45.9 46.3 -0.4
KS 44.7 42.8 1.9
KY 30.5 27.4 3.1
LA 31.3 33 -1.7
ME 33.2 29.6 3.6
MD 41.1 40 1.1
MA 38.6 35.1 3.5
MI 33.3 30.9 2.4
MN 48 47.5 0.5
MS 29.4 27.5 1.9
MO 35.1 35.3 -0.2
MT 43.9 40.3 3.6
NE 47.4 48.6 -1.2
NV 42 41.1 0.9
NH 41.7 39.5 2.2
NJ 36.7 37.9 -1.2
NM 31.9 30.8 1.1
NY 33.1 33 0.1
NC 34.5 32.2 2.3
ND 54 48.8 5.2
OH 35.8 35.2 0.6
OK 37 34.8 2.2
OR 39.2 37.8 1.4
PA 35.5 35.7 -0.2
RI 30 35.8 -5.8
SC 33.4 28.7 4.7
SD 51.6 51.7 -0.1
TN 31.2 30.4 0.8
TX 39 38.6 0.4
UT 47 45.8 1.2
VT 41.5 41 0.5
VA 39 37.4 1.6
WA 39.2 36.8 2.4
WV 27.4 25.4 2
WI 41.8 41.2 0.6
WY 47.2 57.1 -9.9

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli
Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email philipp@respectability.org.

46 comments… add one
  • Carolee Marano Feb 26, 2018, 12:51 pm

    Excellent, valuable information to inform priorities and goals for successfully increasing employment for people with disabilities. Thank you.

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