American's with Disabilities Finding More Jobs But In Familiar Fields
WASHINGTON—Americans with disabilities are working in greater numbers and their unemployment rate has fallen dramatically, but they remain disproportionately employed by governments and in low-wage occupations.
The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities fell to 8% last year, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That was the lowest rate in a decade of comparable records and well below a peak of 15% in 2011. Nearly 100,000 more disabled workers found jobs last year, and the pace of job gains was slightly stronger than for Americas with no disability.
Despite the gains, people with disabilities were more likely to work in public-sector jobs, in lowwage occupations, and to be self-employed. Last year, 14.1% of employed persons with disabilities worked for a government entity, compared with 13.4% of those without disabilities.
The share of those with no disability working in the public sector was at the lowest level since the recession ended in 2009, a time when government jobs oﬀered refuge in a rough labor market. The share for those with disabilities is also down from 2009, but the rate has largely bottomed out, and last year was slightly higher than in 2016. Government entities often actively recruit persons with disabilities to ﬁll jobs.
Whether a person is counted as having a disability in Labor Department data is determined by answers to six questions in a government survey, the same survey that determines the monthly unemployment rate. Being counted as disabled in the data doesn’t necessarily mean the person receives Social Security disability beneﬁts or has sought accommodations from an employer.
Last year, 10.2% of people with disabilities were self-employed compared with 6.1% of those with no disability. That suggests that Americans with disabilities who want to work are more likely to create their own opportunities.
Americans with disabilities were disproportionately employed in what tend to be lower-wage jobs. Last year, 5.7% of those with disabilities worked in building, grounds and maintenance occupations, compared with 3.7% of those without a disability. Those jobs paid an average of $13.91 an hour in 2017, 57% of the average of all jobs, and rarely require education beyond high school.
Americans with disabilities were also more likely to work in transportation and oﬃce administration jobs, two ﬁelds that pay below average wages. Oﬃce administration is also a ﬁeld where the number of jobs is growing very slowly because information technology has enabled employers to automate many functions.
Conversely, 4.2% of employed Americans with disabilities worked as health-care practitioners and technicians compared with 6.1% of those without disabilities. Health care is a fast growing ﬁeld that pays above average wages.