Broker Check
Employment Up for People With Disabilities But Gaps Remain

Employment Up for People With Disabilities But Gaps Remain

February 12, 2024

Thirteen percent of Americans experience a disability, according to 2023 data. Having a disability can shape one’s life in many ways. One area it can impact is employment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published its 2023 report on employment among people with disabilities. Per the findings, the disability community last year encountered an increase in employment – its highest rate on record.

Despite this, workers with disabilities experienced higher unemployment rates across all age groups compared with people with no disability. Living with a disability also correlated with how much people worked and what kind of work they did. 

Employment of People With Disabilities

Workforce participation rose last year, with about 22 percent of people with a disability holding a job. In fact, the employment rate among people with disabilities reached its highest level since 2008, when data collection began. From 2022 to 2023, the employment rate rose by 1.2 percentage points.

Yet the rate of employment was still lower for people with disabilities than for those without disabilities. In part, this reflects age; older workers are less likely to participate in the workforce. (Nearly half of the disabled population comprises adults 65 and older. Only about 17 percent of people without a disability fall into this age range.)

Across all age groups, people with disabilities were nevertheless less likely to be employed. Employment rates were also lower among workers with disabilities regardless of their education level. While 22 percent of people with disabilities in the labor force had employment in 2023, 68 percent of people without a disability did. Even at the highest levels of education, there were significant differences in employment rates.

Part-Time Employment and Types of Work

The nature of work also tended to be different. For one, individuals with disabilities were almost twice as likely to work part-time. Twenty-nine percent of people with a disability work part-time, compared with 16 percent of workers without a disability. Part-time work may suit some individuals with disabilities because it offers a more flexible schedule.

Also offering flexibility, self-employment was more common among those with disabilities, too. A less rigid work schedule can help people complete work while managing a chronic condition.

The report also revealed disparities across areas of employment. Individuals with disabilities were more likely to work in service occupations, production, transportation, and material moving occupations, and sales. They were less likely to work in management, professional, and related occupations. While slightly more likely to have a job with the federal government, they were less likely to work in the private sector.

Unemployment Rate

Someone is unemployed when actively looking for work but unable to find it. The unemployment rate was twice as high for people with disabilities, at 7.2 percent, in 2023. A greater proportion of people with disabilities who want work remain without a job.

Not in the Labor Force

Many people with disabilities are not in the labor force. Unlike those who are unemployed, they are not seeking work.

About three-quarters of people living with disabilities were not in the labor force in 2023, and most did not want a job. Although deciding not to work can be related to age, people with disabilities were still more likely to be out of the workforce across all age groups than people with no disability.

Summary of Key Findings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics based its findings on survey data from approximately 60,000 households. As seen above, the 2023 report sheds light on employment differences between workers with and without disabilities, including the following:

  • Although a greater proportion of people with disabilities participated in the workforce in 2023, they still experienced a higher unemployment rate.
  • Compared to individuals without disabilities, they were more likely to work part-time or work for themselves.
  • They were also less likely to hold executive or professional roles.
  • Roughly three-quarters of adults with disabilities were outside the labor force.

Speak to an Advocate

If you or a loved one with a disability are looking for work or need help accessing health care or other benefits, consider working a qualified special needs planning planner who can help you assess your options and create a plan to increase your income through work or public assistance.

To learn more about available employment programs, check out the following articles:

The opinions voiced in this article are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which strategies or investments may be suitable for you, consult the appropriate qualified professional prior to making a decision.

PLEASE NOTE: The information being provided is strictly as a courtesy. When you link to any of the web sites mentioned, we make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these web sites. The opinions found therein are those of the author(s) of the article or website.