04 February 2023

A Good Thing from Covid

It appears that the pandemic and the resulting labor shortage, has resulted in a dramatic increase in employment for the disabled.

The number of disabled has risen dramatically, and the number of disabled on benefits has correspondingly fallen:

The tight labor market over the past two years has had an amazing effect on people who have a disability: An additional 1.55 million were working in January compared to the pre-pandemic January 2020, up by 27%, and an additional 1.62 million were in the labor force compared to January 2020, up by 26%, according to the employment data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics today.

And according to the Social Security Administration, the number of people who applied for disability benefits, and the number of people who received disability benefits, both dropped to the lowest levels in many years.


The number of people with a disability in the labor force started spiking with the tight job market in early 2021 which encouraged people with a disability to go look for work, and thereby join the labor force. The new flexibility by employers about working from home was likely a big contributor.


At the same time, in this tight labor market, companies, beset with difficulties in hiring people to fill the record number of job openings, began opening more doors to people with a disability. (None of the data here is seasonally adjusted. To reduce some of the month-to-month variations, I used three-month moving averages):

The number of people with a disability who were employed in January spiked by 27% from January 2020, to 7.29 million in January — with December at 7.37 million having been the highest in the data from the BLS going back to 2008:

The unemployment rate for people with a disability — people who were unemployed and were actively looking for a job — dropped to a record low of 5.0% in December, not seasonally adjusted, amid a surge of seasonal hiring by the retail industry before the holidays. In January, those seasonal jobs ended, and the unemployment rate rose of 7.1%.


People with a disability who want to work face a harsh reality: Finding a job is tougher for them than for people without a disability. And so the unemployment rate is always higher. But as the labor market got historically tight, and working from home took off, employers were encouraged to hire people with a disability, and people with a disability were encouraged to look for a job. The results are great to see.


Every year since then, the number of applications dropped and in 2022 fell to 1.80 million applications at the field offices, the lowest since 2003:

The number of people who actually received disability benefits peaked in 2014 at 9.0 million beneficiaries and has since then dropped every year. In 2022, it dropped to 7.6 million, the lowest since 2008:

Obviously, these numbers show two things, that more of the disabled are able to work than has previously been thought, and that employers have been actively discriminating against the disabled.

H/t naked capitalism.


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