Employment of Persons with a Disability: Analysis of Trends during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, persons with a disability were experiencing the strongest labor market since the tracking of disability status began in 2008. The unemployment rate for persons with a disability reached a post-recession peak of 16.9% in June 2011, then gradually declined to 7.3% in 2019. The labor force participation rate rose from a postrecession trough of 18.2% in January 2014 to reach 20.8% in 2019. In February 2020, the last month before COVID-19 had a substantial impact on the labor market, persons with a disability had a labor force participation rate of 20.7%, an employment-population ratio of 19.1%, and an unemployment rate of 7.8%.

The immediate consequences from February to April 2020 were a reduction in employment of 22.5 million or 15.3% and a rise in the unemployment rate from 3.8% to 14.4%. This sudden, unprecedented downturn was followed by an improvement that has also been rapid by historical standards, although much slower than the two-month decline. This brief analyzes trends in key labor force statistics from the Current Population Survey (CPS) by disability status through December 2021. 2 Employment trends are also examined across broad categories of industry and occupation, since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has varied considerably across these categories. Primary reasons for this variance are the relative ease of social distancing in an occupation, given the necessary physical proximity between workers (or between workers and customers), referred to as “contact intensity,” and the extent to which jobs are suited for telework.

Click here to read the brief. 

Source: U.S. DOL