Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Disabled Workers Saw Record Employment Gains in 2023, But Gaps Remain
Press Release

RELEASE: Disabled Workers Saw Record Employment Gains in 2023, But Gaps Remain

Washington, D.C. — New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2023, disabled people made record-breaking employment gains in a tight labor market. A new Center for American Progress column examines how despite these record gains, stubborn gaps remain that leave disabled workers unemployed at twice the rate of nondisabled workers.

The column highlights notable findings from this new data release about disabled workers’ labor market experiences over the past year and how both a tight labor market during the economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession and increased availability of telework options have helped improve disabled workers’ employment rates. Some of the key takeaways include:

  • Employment rates for disabled women and men ages 16 to 64 hit record highs in 2023, with 36.1 percent and 38.2 percent employment rates, respectively.
  • In 2023, the unemployment rate for disabled people, on average, reached a record low of 7.2 percent. Yet this is still twice the 3.5 percent unemployment rate experienced by people without a disability.
  • Black and Hispanic disabled people continue to face higher unemployment rates than the general unemployment rate among disabled workers, at 10.2 percent for Black disabled workers and 9.2 percent for Hispanic disabled workers, due to intersecting and compounding racism and ableism.
  • People with disabilities are almost twice as likely to work part time than workers without disabilities.
  • The higher concentrations of disabled workers in low-wage and part-time positions contribute to the persistent wage gap that people with disabilities face—a median wage of 66 cents for every dollar made by people without a disability.

“Last year, disabled workers made record employment gains in a generally strong labor market,” said Rose Khattar, director of economic analysis for Inclusive Economy at CAP and co-author of the column. “Despite this progress, they continue to face barriers to achieving economic security. It’s crucial that policymakers step up and implement strong worker protections that work with and for disabled people. Increasing funding to Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) programs, increasing workplace accommodations, raising the minimum wage, and eliminating Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act would all help diminish barriers and wage gaps that disabled workers have faced for far too long. ”

Read the column: “Disabled Workers Saw Record Employment Gains in 2023, But Gaps Remain” by Kennedy Andara, Anona Neal, and Rose Khattar

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sarah Nadeau at [email protected].

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