Disability and Employment – Disability in America Series

September 2016

This chart compares the employment status of individuals with and without disability. Within each group individuals are either employed, unemployed or not in the labor force. Individuals are considered employed if they worked within the last week or identify as having employment but did not work within the last week (e.g. on vacation, sick, or other temporary absence). Individuals are considered unemployed if they did not work within the last week, do not identify as having employment but have been activity looking for work during the past 4 weeks or anticipate being called back to a job from which they were laid off. These first two categories, employed and unemployed, make up the labor force; all other individuals are considered “not in the labor force”. This group is comprised of individuals not actively seeking work (e.g. students, seasonal workers, homemakers, institutionalized individuals) or individuals engaged in incidental unpaid family work (of less than 15 hours a week). For more on ACS variable definitions see the 2014 subject definitions guide.

A stacked bar chart comparing rates of employment, unemployment, and not in labor force between people with disabilities and without by county type.












Chart 10. Employment rates by disability status and county type. For those without disability employment rates are 74% in metro counties, 72.9% in micro counties, and 72.3% in noncore counties. Unemployment rates are 7% in metro, 6.7% in micro and 6.6% in noncore. The rate of individuals without disability not in the labor force is 19.1% in metro, 20.5% in micro, and 21.2% in noncore. For people with disability employment rates are 34.1% in metro, 31.5% in micro, and 29.4% in noncore. Unemployment rates are 7.8% in metro, 6.8% in micro, and 5.9% in noncore. Rate of those not in the labor force are 58.1% in metro, 61.8% in micro, and 64.6% in noncore.

The percentages shown in the chart above represent the rate of the entire population either with or without disability. Comparing groups in this way reveals that there are some major differences in employment between people with disabilities and people without disabilities. People with disabilities are about half a likely to be employed as those without, with rates around 30% for those with disabilities relative to over 70% of those without disability. While the unemployment rate for both groups is comparable at between 7%-8% the percent of individuals not in the labor force explains this discrepancy between employment and unemployment. For people without disabilities the rate is around 20% whereas for people with disabilities the rate is nearly three times that hovering around 60%.

Urban-Rural Differences:

The general trend for rural-urban employment rates follow what we have seen in previous results. Rates of employment are lower in rural areas for both people with and without disabilities. However, these differences are more pronounced for people with disabilities. Interestingly, we see a similar trend in unemployment rates. Unemployment rates are also lower across both groups in rural areas relative to urban areas.  However, this discrepancy is accounted for when we look at rates of those not in the labor force. Across both groups the rate of those not in the labor force increases from urban to rural areas and again this is more pronounced for people with disabilities, a difference of six percentage points for people with disabilities compared to only a 2 percentage point difference from urban to rural for those without disability.

Click here to view this data presented as maps of disability and employment rates.

This work is part of the RTC:Rural Geography of Disability Project.