East Hanover, NJ - August 2, 2019 - Economic indicators rose again for Americans with disabilities, outpacing the modest gains for people without disabilities, according to today's National Trends in Disability Employment - Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD).

The hot topic in human resource management today is Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), a general term for initiatives aimed at diversifying the demographics of the workplace. One factor contributing to the emphasis on D&I is the pressing need to expand the pool of job seekers. 

As the labor market tightens, the pool of qualified candidates shrinks, leaving positions unfilled and hindering productivity. Businesses are looking more closely at people who are striving to work, but face challenges in connecting with employers, including people with disabilities.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 29.3 percent in July 2018 to 31.2 percent in July 2019 (up 6.5 percent or 1.9 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 74.7 percent in July 2018 to 74.9 percent in July 2019 (up 0.3 percent or 0.2 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio, a key indicator, reflects the percentage of people who are working relative to the total population (the number of people working divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).

"The July employment indicators for people with disabilities showed improvement compared to last year at this time," said John O'Neill, Ph.D., director of Employment and Disability Research at Kessler Foundation. "July is the second consecutive month this year where we have seen meaningful improvements in the indicators. Let's hope this pattern continues."

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 32.4 percent in July 2018 to 34.1 percent in July 2019 (up 5.2 percent or 1.7 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 77.7 percent in July 2018 to 77.9 percent in July 2019 (up 0.3 percent or 0.2 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

Major companies such as Amazon, Cintas, JetBlue, Pepsico, Sears, Sephora, and Walgreens, are meeting their hiring needs by actively recruiting people with disabilities, a demographic often overlooked in D&I initiatives. Certain practices and procedures contribute to the success of these efforts, according to the 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives.

"These companies share practices that our survey showed were associated with successful hiring of people with disabilities," noted Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of Grants and Communications at Kessler Foundation. "Upper management has a commitment to hiring people with disabilities, and that commitment is reflected in the attitudes of supervisors," she said, "and to identify and train job candidates, they partner with a local disability organization."

Sephora, a global beauty retailer with more than 19,000 employees worldwide, implemented a corporate hiring initiative, Enabling a Workforce with Disabilities, that is achieving success. Ryan Hitsman, senior HR manager for Sephora, handles the staffing needs for the company's Southeast Distribution Center that opened in 2018 in Olive Branch, Mississippi. "Our target is to fill 30 percent of the positions with people with disabilities," said Hitsman. "To find qualified candidates, we partnered with the Mississippi Division of Rehabilitation Services, and Viability, a nonprofit disability organization." On the way to reaching that goal, Sephora hired more people with disabilities than any other employer in the state and was recognized as the 2018 employer of the year in Mississippi.

"Our 2017 survey identified employment practices and procedures that supervisors view as effective and feasible to implement," said Dr. O'Neill. "Despite their effectiveness, many are underutilized. Employers can diversify their workplaces and meet their hiring needs by implementing effective strategies for improving recruitment, hiring, and retention of people with disabilities."

In July 2019, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,634,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.1 percent of the total 147,924,000 workers in the U.S.