Unemployment moved downward for people with disabilities after stalling in October, according to the National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) COVID Update for November 2021.

For the first time, their unemployment levels dipped below pre-pandemic lows, in contrast with their peers without disabilities.  

In April of 2020, restrictions on economic activity in the US 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.

November’s dip in unemployment occurred in the context of rises in the employment-to-population ratio and labor force participation rate.

“These are signs that some people with disabilities are returning to the labor market. They are making headway despite the ‘new normal’ of today’s labor market.” 

— Andrew Houtenville, PhD, professor of economics at the University of Hampshire (UNH) and research director of the UNH Institute on Disability

Noting a rise in furloughs from 2% to 4% percent in November, Dr. Houtenville speculated that the fall surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant may have triggered temporary layoffs for some workers.

“The rapid spread of the new omicron variant is a concern,” he adds. “If the rise in infections and hospitalizations hinders economic recovery, we may see that reflected in the job numbers.”

Notes from the Field

Disability employment expert John O’Neill, PhD, reported progress by JobPathNYC, a New York City-based nonprofit that provides customized employment services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“By early December, more than 85 percent of JobPath’s clients were back at work. They either returned to their previous jobs or started new ones with the help of JobPath’s staff of job developers.”

Dr. John O’Neill, director of the Center for Employment and Disability Research at Kessler Foundation and co-author of nTIDE

Optimism about further progress is being tempered by the surge in COVID-19 infections in New York.

“Holding on to these gains will depend on how measures to contain the pandemic affect businesses and employment,” O’Neill predicts. “The good news is that we now have more in the way of public health resources and can apply the lessons learned earlier in the pandemic to keep businesses open and people on the job.”  

[Source(s): Kessler Foundation, EurekAlert]