Public Release: 

Rise in indicators extends positive trend for Americans with disabilities

nTIDE October 2018 Jobs Report: Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire -- features strategies for expanding employment for veterans with disabilities

Kessler Foundation


IMAGE: Inforgraphic shows increases in the employment-to-population ratio and the labor participation rate for people with and without disabilities. view more 

Credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ - November 2, 2018 -The key economic indicators for Americans with disabilities continued to rise, 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). More than 50 million people in the U.S. have disabilities, comprising the nation's largest minority. As Veterans Day approaches, we focus attention on this group and its unique challenges to finding employment. Through vocational rehabilitation research, new approaches are being developed to help veterans with disabilities contribute their talent and experience to our communities and the greater economy by re-establishing themselves in the workplace.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, November 2, , the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 30.5 percent in October 2017 to 31.4 percent in October 2018 (up 3 percent or 0.9 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased from 73.7 percent in October 2017 to 74.3 percent in October 2018 (up 0.8 percent or 0.6 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 increases in these indicators are encouraging signs for Americans with disabilities," said Debra Brucker, PhD, research assistant professor at the UNH Institute on Disability. "It's important to note, however, that large gaps remain between the employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rates for persons with and without disabilities," she emphasized.

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 33.3 percent in October 2017 to 34.2 percent in October 2018 (up 2.7 percent or 0.9 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also increased from 76.6 percent in October 2017 to 76.9 percent in October 2018 (up 0.4 percent or 0.3 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

"The October data continues the upward trend in economic indicators we saw over the past two months," said John O'Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. "This continued upturn may indicate that the strong labor market, which is producing high demand for workers, is also creating labor force benefits for people with disabilities."

To raise employment among veterans with disabilities, researchers are seeking to learn from the cohort that has successfully reintegrated into the workforce. "We know that the majority of people with disabilities, including veterans, are striving to work, and some are achieving success," said Dr. O'Neill, referring to the findings of the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey. "Understanding those successes will help us develop interventions that help others reach their employment goals," he noted.

Dr. O'Neill is principal investigator of a new study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense that aims to identify the factors associated with success among veterans with disabilities caused by spinal cord injury. Researchers at Kessler Foundation are collaborating with their counterparts at the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital in Tampa, Florida. "We plan to compare the employment experiences for veterans with spinal cord injury treated in the VA system with those followed through a civilian system - the Spinal Cord Injury Model System," said Lisa Ottomanelli, PhD, an expert in veteran employment and disability and leader of the Tampa team.

To capture the perspective of the veterans and the details of their experiences, the study includes interviews, surveys and focus groups. In addition to employment-related information, investigators will collect information on health, environmental factors and personal factors. Dr. Ottomanelli concluded: "Learning from the employment experiences of our veterans with disabilities is essential to attaining our goal - to formulate action plans for implementing evidence-based vocational interventions that are effective in the VA and civilian settings."

In October 2018, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,824,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.3 percent of the total 147,027,000 workers in the U.S.

The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, December 7, 2018.

Each nTIDE release is followed by a noon Lunch & Learn we inar. This live broadcast, hosted via Zoom Webinar, offers attendees Q&A on the latest nTIDE findings, provides news and updates from the field, as well as invited panelists to discuss current disability-related findings and events. On November 2, Lisa Ottomanelli, PhD, from the James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, joins Dr. Brucker, Dr. O'Neill, and Denise Rozell, policy strategist at AUCD, to discuss VA programs that are helping veterans with disabilities enter the workforce. Join live, or watch the recordings at:

NOTE: The statistics in the nTIDE are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, but are not identical. They are customized by UNH to combine the statistics for men and women of working age (16 to 64). nTIDE is funded, in part, by grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (9ORT5022 and 90RT5017) and Kessler Foundation.


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

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

For more information, or to interview an expert, contact: Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382,

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