Disability and Employment in the US: What the Latest Statistics Say

Disability Ability
Disability Ability

Disability in the US Population

According to the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium of 2015, 12.6% of the US population had a disability in 2014, as per data from the American Community Survey (ACS). California had the highest number of disabled persons, while Wyoming had the lowest. Among the working age population, ie those aged 18 to 64, 2.1% had a hearing disability, 1.9% had a vision disability, 5.2% had a disability related to movement, 4.4% had a cognitive disability, 1.9% had a self-care disability, and 3.7% had an independent living disability.

Among the working-age population with a hearing disability, 50.7% had employment in 2014. The proportion of those employed with a vision disability was 40.2%. In 2014, 24.2% of those with a cognitive disability were employed, the same proportion as those with a disability related to movement.

Disability in the US
Disability in the US

Disability and Employment Statistics

According to data released by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, 17.1% of those with a disability were employed in 2014, down from 17.6% in 2013. On the other hand, 64.6% of those not disabled had employment in 2014, up from 64% in 2013. The unemployment rate for the disabled was 12.5% in 2014, compared with 5.9% for those without a disability. Some other highlights of the data were that unemployment rates among the disabled were higher than those without disabilities regardless of the level of educational attainment. In addition, the disabled were more likely to be employed part-time or come in the self-employed category, compared to those without disabilities.

According to data published by the US Department of Labor, only one third, or 32% of those with disabilities were employed on average in the 2010-2012 period, compared to 72.7% of those without disabilities. Employment among those with disabilities is particularly low for blacks and those with a low educational attainment, compared with employment for those without disabilities. Those with disabilities are underrepresented in management and professional or technical jobs, overrepresented in service, production and transportation jobs.

Occupation as a Percent of Total Employed: 2014 Data

Percentage of Total Employed with Disability
Percentage of Total Employed with No Disability
Management, professional, and related occupations
Service occupations
Sales and office occupations
Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Disability & Employment
Disability & Employment
Disability Across Occupations
Disability Across Occupations

US Government Support for Employment among the Disabled

According to an article published by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Americans with Disabilities Act, now known as the Rehabilitation Act, protects those who are disabled from being unfairly discriminated against during any aspect of employment, such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, training and fringe benefits. The law mandates the employer to provide reasonable accommodation to the disabled employee, unless doing so causes undue hardship or expense, given the size of the employer’s business, financial resources, and the needs of the business.

As reported in an article on Disabled World, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has a mandate to increase employment opportunities for the disabled. ODEP does so by expanding access to training, education, employment supports, assistive technology, such as wheelchair securement provided by companies like Sure-Lok, entrepreneurial development and small-business opportunities.

Employment Status of Civilian Population by Disability Status: April 2016 Data

Persons with a Disability
Persons with No Disability
Civilian noninstitutional population
Civilian labor force
Participation rate
Employment-population ratio
Unemployment rate
Not in labor force

Severity of Disability and Employment

Less than 50% of individuals in the age group of 21 to 64 year and having a disability are employed. In comparison, almost 80% of people in the same age group without any disability are employed, according to a report published by the US Census Bureau. The report goes on to show that merely a quarter of adults with a severe disability are employed.

Prevalence of Disability and Employment Status: Age Group 21 to 64

With a disability
Severe disability
Nonsevere disability
No disability
Disability in America
Disability in America
Wheelchair Securement for the Disabled
Wheelchair Securement for the Disabled

Social Security Benefits for the Disabled

According to information published on the US government’s Social Security website, the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of the many federal programs available to provide help to those with disabilities. Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and your family if you become disabled due to some injury and are “insured”, i.e., you have worked long enough and paid social security taxes. Supplemental Security Income pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited resources.

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