Unemployment Rate Response

First Ever Unemployment Rate for Individuals with Disabilities Almost Double

the Overall National Rate

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced today the first ever unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities of 13.2% not seasonally adjusted for the month of January.   This rate is almost 5% points higher than for individuals without a disability, which was 8.3% in January not seasonally adjusted.*

“We are pleased that the BLS now provides this important monthly unemployment statistic for individuals with disabilities.  This high unemployment rate shows the continued need for increased provision of effective services and supports for individuals with disabilities who seek employment, and enforcement of anti-discrimination laws” stated Curt Decker, Executive Director of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).

NDRN notes, however, that the measure does not include individuals with disabilities who reside in institutions, and that inclusion of such individuals in the unemployment survey would further increase the reported unemployment rate.   Advocates and policy makers should also be aware that the rate only measures those whose households self-identify an individual with a disability, and includes only those who report that they are actively seeking employment.  The unemployment rate does not reflect discouraged workers – such as individuals who stopped looking for employment because of repeated discrimination, lack of necessary supports, limited job opportunities, or for fear of losing benefits.

It has been often misstated that the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities is around 70%.  This is the result of mistakenly subtracting the employment rate for individuals with disabilities, which has been in the range of 30% – 37% for the past several decades, from 100%.  The unemployment rate is defined differently than the employment rate, and therefore a simple subtraction of the employment rate of individuals with disabilities from 100% is statistically incorrect.

For additional resources on both the employment rate and unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities, including a link explaining why the unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities is not around 70%, see the NDRN webpage on Reports and Statistics on the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities.


* The overall national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January was 7.6%, while the non- seasonally adjusted rate was 8.5%.