The Department of Labor’s disappointing May jobs report is sending mixed signals for the employment prospects for people with disabilities.
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities dropped to 9.7 percent, a full percentage less than the previous month and down from the particularly alarming 12.5 percent figure reported in February. This trend mirrors a decrease in the national unemployment rate, which now stands at 4.7 percent for the general population, the lowest since 2007.
However, the economy overall added just 38,000 jobs overall in May, the lowest rate since 2010, meaning that the unemployment rate is largely the product of people dropping out of the workforce. The DOL’s statistics do not account for people who have been out of the workforce for more than a year, which includes most people receiving long-term disability benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.
Accordingly, the overall labor force participation rate fell to 62.6 percent in May, continuing a long downward trend from the 66 percent rate measured as recently as 2007.
This dichotomy, however, may not explain May’s drop in the unemployment rate for people with disabilities. In fact, the labor force participation rate for people with disabilities, while still dramatically lower than that of the general population, increased from 20.4 to 20.5 percent last month.
The DOL first began tracking employment statistics specific for people with disabilities in 2008.
The DOL’s full May 2016 employment report can be read here [PDF].