nTIDE March 2022 COVID Update: Job data show more people with disabilities are looking for work 

Carolann Murphy

East Hanover, NJ. April 22, 2022. Unemployment rose for people with disabilities in March, indicating that more people with disabilities are looking for work, according to today’s National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) COVID Update. While unemployment declined for people without disabilities, they have yet to reach their pre-pandemic levels of employment.

East Hanover, NJ. April 22, 2022. Unemployment rose for people with disabilities in March, indicating that more people with disabilities are looking for work, according to today’s National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) COVID Update. While unemployment declined for people without disabilities, they have yet to reach their pre-pandemic levels of employment.

March data showed an increase in unemployment for people with disabilities and a decrease for people without disabilities. The number of workers on temporary layoff declined for both groups, as shown in the mountain graphic, according to  nTIDE expert Andrew Houtenville, PhD, professor of economics at the University of Hampshire (UNH) and research director of the UNH Institute on Disability. “Despite the movements in March, people with disabilities are continuing to do better in the labor market than their counterparts without disabilities,” said Dr. Houtenville. “Looking back to January 2020, people with disabilities are exceeding their pre-pandemic employment levels, while people without disabilities have yet to reach those levels.” 

Dr. Houtenville attributed the rise in unemployment among people with disabilities to more people looking for work. “We need to remember that those who are looking are counted in the unemployment numbers,” he said. “The reopening of businesses and the resurgence in seasonal opportunities are fueling the job market. And as the effects of the pandemic wane, and public health efforts continue, more people may be feeling more comfortable engaging in the labor market,” he added.

“It’s important to consider other factors that may be motivating jobseekers with disabilities, who are more likely to live in poverty, and may be disproportionately affected by growing inflation,” Dr. Houtenville noted. “Also, we are seeing the return of vocational services and supports and an increase in referrals for these services. As service-based logistics improve and are accessed by jobseekers, we should see more people transition from looking for work to employment.”

Field Notes

Stakeholders in the field of disability employment are seeing signs of this turnaround in employment services, according to Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of grantmaking and communications at Kessler Foundation. “Referrals to service providers are up in New Jersey, and providers are hiring more staff,” she reported. The return to in-person services promises to benefit many job coaches and the clients they serve. “For job coaches, providing services remotely was difficult,” Katz noted. “For many workers with disabilities, the shift to remote/hybrid work hindered their abilities to socialize, network, and participate in in-person job training.”

In New York City, Job Path NYC is seeing a return of part-time job coaches, after an 80% decline during the pandemic, according to nTIDE co-author John O’Neill, PhD, director of the Center for Employment and Disability Employment Research  at Kessler Foundation. Dr. O’Neill is on the board of Job Path NYC, a nonprofit that provides customized employment services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “Most of Job Path NYC’s job coaches are recruited from the ranks of local college students. Now that colleges and universities are returning to in-person learning, hiring for these positions is picking up, and as a result, more of Job Path’s clients with disabilities are working or preparing for jobs.”

For in-depth analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment trends, see our recent nTIDE Special Edition: Workers with disabilities overcome pandemic setbacks, outpacing people without disabilities to set new records for employment.

Upcoming nTIDE webinars scheduled for May 6 and May 20

Each nTIDE release is followed by a Lunch & Learn webinar at 12:00 ET, featuring nTIDE experts Andrew Houtenville, PhD and John O’Neill, PhD. You may register for upcoming webinars, and view the nTIDE archives here:  nTIDE Lunch & Learn Webinar Series | Center for Research on Disability

About nTIDE Updates

National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE), is a joint project of Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, co-authored by Dr. Houtenville and John O’Neill, PhD, of Kessler Foundation. The nTIDE team closely monitors the job numbers, issuing semi-monthly nTIDE reports, as the labor market continues to reflect the many challenges of the pandemic. Since 2013, a monthly nTIDE has been issued in conjunction with the first Friday Jobs Report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In April of 2020, restrictions on economic activity in the U.S. due to the COVID-19 pandemic precipitated an unprecedented rise in furloughs and people looking for work, prompting the addition of this mid-month nTIDE COVID Update. The mid-month nTIDE follows two key unemployment indicators – furloughs, or temporary layoffs, and the number of people looking for work, comparing trends for people with and without disabilities.

Funding: Kessler Foundation and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (90RT5037)

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes — including employment — for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

About the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire

The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was established in 1987 to provide a coherent university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. For information on the NIDILRR-funded Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, visit ResearchonDisability.org.

Interested in trends on disability employment? Contact Carolann Murphy to arrange an interview with our experts: [email protected]

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Title: nTIDE March 2022 COVID Update: Unemployment Trends

Caption: These graphics compare the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with and without disabilities, capturing pre-pandemic and current unemployment data from January 2020 to March 2022. March numbers showed declines in temporary layoffs for both groups. Unemployment increased for people with disabilities and declined for people without disabilities.


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