In 2019, 19.3% of persons with a disability were employed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently. In contrast, the employment-population ratio for persons without a disability was 66.3 %. The unemployment rates for both persons with and without a disability declined from the previous year to 7.3% and 3.5%, respectively.

The data on persons with a disability are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households that provides statistics on employment and unemployment in the United States. The collection of data on persons with a disability is sponsored by the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. For more information, see the Technical Note in this news release.

Highlights from the 2019 data:

  • Half of all persons with a disability were age 65 and over, about three times larger than the share of those with no disability. (See table 1.)
  • Across all age groups, the employment-population ratios were much lower for persons with a disability than for those with no disability. (See table 1.)
  • Across all educational attainment groups, unemployment rates for persons with a disability were higher than those for persons without a disability. (See table 1.)
  • In 2019, 32 of workers with a disability were employed part time, compared with 17% for those with no disability. (See table 2.)
  • Employed persons with a disability were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability. (See table 4.)

Demographic characteristics

Persons with a disability tend to be older than persons with no disability, reflecting the increased incidence of disability with age. In 2019, half of persons with a disability were age 65 and over,
compared with 16% of those with no disability. Overall, women were somewhat more likely to have a disability than men, partly reflecting the greater life expectancy of women. In 2019, the prevalence of disability continued to be higher for Blacks and Whites than for Hispanics and Asians. (See table 1.)

Employment

In 2019, the employment-population ratio for persons with a disability was 19.3%, little changed from 19.1% in 2018. The ratio for persons without a disability, at 66.3%, increased by 0.4 percentage point over the year. The lower ratio among persons with a disability reflects, in part, the older age profile of persons with a disability; older workers are less likely to be employed regardless of disability status. However, across all age groups, persons with a disability were much less likely to be employed than those with no disability. (See tables A and 1.)

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In 2019, the employment-population ratio for persons with a disability between ages 16 to 64 edged up to 30.9%, while the ratio for persons without a disability in the same age group increased to 74.6%. The employment-population ratio for persons with a disability age 65 and over, at 7.6%, was little changed from the prior year; the ratio for persons without a disability in the same age group, at 24.4%, increased in 2019. (See table A and table 1.)

Persons with a disability are less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher than those with no disability. Among both groups, those who had attained higher levels of education were more likely to be employed than those who had attained less education. Across all levels of education in 2019, persons with a disability were much less likely to be employed than were their counterparts with no disability. (Educational attainment data are presented for those age 25 and over.) (See table 1.)

Workers with a disability were more likely to be employed part time than those with no disability. Among workers with a disability, 32% usually worked part time in 2019, compared with 17% of those without a disability. The proportion of workers with a disability who worked part time for economic reasons was slightly higher than their counterparts without a disability (4%, compared with 3%). These individuals were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were not able to find a full-time job. (See table 2.)

In 2019, workers with a disability were more concentrated in service occupations than those with no disability (20.7%, compared with 17%). Workers with a disability were also more likely than those with no disability to work in production, transportation, and material moving occupations (14.5%, compared with 11.7%). Persons with a disability were less likely to work in management, professional, and related occupations than those without a disability (34.1%, compared with 41%). (See table 3.)

At 13.3 %, the proportion of workers employed in government in 2019 was the same for those with and without a disability. A larger share of workers with a disability were self-employed in 2019 than were those with no disability (10.0 % versus 5.9 %). In contrast, a smaller share of workers with a disability were employed as private wage and salary workers (76.6 %), than were those without a disability (80.7 %). (See table 4.)

Unemployment

The unemployment rate for persons with a disability, at 7.3 % in 2019, declined by 0.7 percentage point from the previous year. Their jobless rate continued to be about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability. (Unemployed persons are those who did not have a job, were available for work, and were actively looking for a job in the four weeks preceding the survey.) The unemployment rate for persons without a disability declined by 0.2 percentage point to 3.5% in 2019. (See tables A and 1.)

In 2019, the unemployment rate for men with a disability (7.4%) was about the same as the rate for women with a disability (7.3 %). The rate for men with a disability was little changed from the previous year, whereas the rate for women with a disability declined from 2018 to 2019. Among persons with a disability, Blacks had a higher unemployment rate in 2019 (11.8%) than Hispanics (8.6%), Asians (6.7%), and Whites (6.6%). The jobless rate for Whites with a disability declined over the year, while the rates for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians showed little change. (See table 1.)

Not in the labor force

Persons who are neither employed nor unemployed are considered not in the labor force. A large proportion of persons with a disability—about 8 in 10—were not in the labor force in 2019, compared with about 3 in 10 of those with no disability. In part, this reflects the older age profile of persons with a disability; persons age 65 and over are much less likely to participate in the labor force than younger age groups. Across all age groups, however, persons with a disability were more likely to be out of the labor force than those with no disability. (See table 1.)

For persons with and without a disability, the vast majority of those not in the labor force reported that they do not want a job. In 2019, 3% of those with a disability and 6% of those without a disability wanted a job. Among those who do want a job, a subset is classified as marginally attached to the labor force. These individuals wanted and were available to work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (Persons marginally attached to the labor force include discouraged workers.) About 1% of persons with a disability and 2% of persons without a disability were marginally attached to the labor force in 2019. (See table 5.)