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People with Disabilities at Work and Play

September 6, 2012
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Related Topics: Labor Trends, HR & Business Administration
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With the 2012 Summer Olympics over and its 10,500 competitors back home, the Paralympic Games got under way Aug. 29. Taking part will be 4,200 athletes with a disability—40 percent of the number of athletes in the Olympic Games.

How does this level of participation stack up against the level of employment for people with a disability in this country? Recent data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show among the working age people in the U.S. with a disability*, close to 32 percent participate in the workforce—either by being employed or seeking work. Among people without a disability, about 77 percent participate. While far from an apples-to-apples comparison, that's a difference in participation rate of about 45 percent.

The first chart below illustrates that the percentage of people without a disability who work is much higher than the percentage of people with a disability who work. The surprising difference is between the sexes. While the participation rate for men is higher than women both with and without a disability, it is much smaller for women with a disability.

The second chart shows that, among people who participate in the workforce, the unemployment situation is far worse for people with a disability. Since the Current Population Survey began collecting data to identify persons with a disability, it has been clear that the unemployment rate among people with a disability runs much higher—at times almost twice as high—than that of persons without a disability. The unemployment rate is also much more volatile, with larger peaks and deeper troughs.

Workforce Management, September 2012, p. 18 Subscribe Now!

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