Public Release: 

Outlook remains optimistic despite dip in job numbers for Americans with disabilities

nTIDE December 2018 Jobs Report from Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire -- featuring fellowship programs for professionals in disability-related fields

Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ - January 4, 2019 - Economic indicators for Americans with disabilities dipped in December, in contrast to the gains seen 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). Employment experts remain optimistic for growth in 2019 given the overall upward pattern in 2018.

To ensure that individuals striving to work are supported by best practices, international fellowship programs are offering professionals training and experience that ensure their inclusion in all aspects of society, including the workplace.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities decreased from 30.8 percent in December 2017 to 30.4 percent in December 2018 (down 1.3 percent or 0.4 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio increased from 73.3 percent in December 2017 to 74.1 percent in December 2018 (up 1.1 percent or 0.8 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).

"From February 2016 until May 2018, we saw steady improvement in the employment situation for people with disabilities," said John O'Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. "However, over the past seven months, we have seen both improvements and declines in the employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate for people with disabilities. This fluctuating data pattern is disappointing because this tight labor market should be producing steady employment gains see for Americans with disabilities."

The labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities decreased from 33.8 percent in December 2017 to 33.3 percent in December 2018 (down 1.5 percent or 0.5 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate increased from 76.1 percent in December 2017 to 76.9 percent in December 2018 (up 1.1 percent or 0.8 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

"This was only the third month in 2018 that we didn't see improvement in the job numbers for people with disabilities," noted Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability. "Three months of declines over the entire year does not constitute a trend, given that the economy continues to show signs of strength. We will be watching this closely in the New Year."

Preparing people with disabilities for their working lives requires many different kinds of professional support, from medical care and rehabilitation to education and workforce development. Fundamental to achieving employment goals is attaining maximal functional independence, according to John DeLuca, PhD, senior vice president for Research and Training at Kessler Foundation. "There's a global need for trained scientists who can conduct rigorous clinical studies in rehabilitation research," he emphasized. "Kessler's Postdoctoral Training Program attracts dedicated young professionals from the U.S. and abroad. More than 40 scientists have learned the skills and methodology needed to conduct research that improves the everyday lives of people with various neurological conditions, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, and injuries to the brain and spinal cord. Training opportunities, which receive funding from federal and state grants, professional societies, and foundations, draw from the Foundation's expertise in human performance and engineering, cognitive neuroscience, and employment and disability."

Training specific to employment is the focus of the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment (PFP-IDE), which serves professionals in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Each year, 20 mid-level professionals rotate through the intensive U.S.-based program. The PFP-IDE is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is implemented by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) in partnership with the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Humanity and Inclusion (HI). "The fellows are hosted in university-based research and education centers for disabilities," explained Sarah DeMaio, MSW, the project's director. "The hands-on mentoring and learning opportunities they experience equip them to plan and implement projects in their home countries that are based on best practices that address the challenging vocational needs of persons with disabilities. PFP-IDE fellows have become leaders who are transforming the systems of support for people with disabilities at the community, national, and regional levels in East Africa."

In December 2018, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,699,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the total 146,531,000 workers in the U.S.


Each nTIDE release is followed by a noon Lunch & Learn webinar. 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 January 4, Sarah DeMaio, MSW, AUCD Program Manager and project director of the PFP-IDE, joined Dr. Houtenville, Dr. O'Neill, and Denise Rozell, Policy Strategist at AUCD, to discuss outcomes being acheived in East Africa. You may join live, or access the archived recordings at:

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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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