Unemployment reaches record high for people with disabilities

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, July 23, 2011

The jobless rate for Americans with disabilities soared last month to the highest level seen in nearly two years.

Unemployment rose to 16.9 percent in June for those with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday. That’s equal to the record-high set in August 2009. The June data also brings a significant jump in employment troubles over May when the unemployment rate was at 15.6 percent.

While Americans with disabilities continue to face steep hurdles in the job market, June was a tough month for the general population, too. Unemployment ticked up to 9.2 percent from 9.1 percent for that group, as just 18,000 jobs were added.

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The Labor Department began tracking employment among people with disabilities in October 2008. There is not enough data compiled to establish seasonal trends among this population, so statistics for this group are not seasonally adjusted.

Data on people with disabilities covers those over the age of 16 who do not live in institutions. The first employment report specific to this population was made available in February 2009. Now, reports are released monthly.

New data confirms mounting troubles

Work was particularly hard to come by for Americans with disabilities last year, according to a newly released report showing that in 2010, less than one in five with disabilities held jobs.

The report from the U.S. Department of Labor finds individuals with disabilities in all age groups were less likely to be employed than their typically developing peers.

Moreover, when those with disabilities did find jobs, they were more often part-time positions or opportunities for self-employment, and less likely to be management or professional jobs. The statistics offer a long-range view on employment data that’s released monthly by the Labor Department.

Though the picture painted by the report is a sobering one, the hiring experiences of people with disabilities appear to be steady. Even as unemployment soared to 9.4 percent for the general population, the jobless rate for those with disabilities remained largely unchanged from 2009 to 2010 at 14.8 percent.

Meanwhile, about 80 percent of those with disabilities were not considered to be in the labor force, meaning that they were not employed and were not looking for work. Just 30 percent of people in the general population fell into this same category.

One area that did appear to improve job prospects for workers with disabilities was increased education, the report found. However, even those with advanced degrees lagged behind similarly educated individuals without disabilities when it came to hiring.

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