Public Release: 

nTIDE Aug 2018: Return to positive trend for employment of Americans with disabilities

National Trends in Disability Employment August 2018 Jobs Report: Kessler Foundation and University of New Hampshire Monthly Update

Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ - September 7, 2018. The employment of Americans with disabilities returned to a positive trend after two down months, according to today's National Trends in Disability Employment - Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire's Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). This reversal may reestablish the extended upward trend in their job numbers that began in early 2016.

For jobseekers with disabilities, transitioning to competitive employment often raises concerns about the potential loss of essential healthcare benefits. Federal and state agencies support programs that help people with disabilities who choose work to maintain their eligibility for Medicaid coverage as their income level rises.

In the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Friday, August 3, the employment-to-population ratio for working-age people with disabilities increased from 29.5 percent in August 2017 to 30.2 percent in August 2018 (up 2.4 percent or 0.7 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the employment-to-population ratio also increased slightly from 73.6 percent in August 2017 to 73.8 percent in August 2018 (up 0.3 percent or 0.2 percentage points). The employment-to-population ratio, a key indicator, reflects the percentage of people who are working relative to the total population (the number of people working divided by the number of people in the total population multiplied by 100).

"The August data reverses the recent but brief downturn we saw in June and July's economic indicators," according to John O'Neill, PhD, director of employment and disability research at Kessler Foundation. "This upturn may reestablish the positive trend that Americans with disabilities experienced between February 2016 and May 2018, when we saw steady improvement in the employment situation for people with disabilities," he noted. "We know that the majority of people with disabilities are striving to work, and that the demand for workers is high, so a continuation of this upward trend would not be surprising."

In addition, the labor force participation rate for working-age people with disabilities increased from 32.5 percent in August 2017 to 33 percent in August 2018 (up 1.5 percent or 0.5 percentage points). For working-age people without disabilities, the labor force participation rate also decreased slightly from 77.0 percent in August 2017 to 76.7 percent in August 2018 (down 0.4 percent or 0.3 percentage points). The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or actively looking for work.

"It is interesting to see the labor force participation and employment rebound after two down months. With the economy in full employment, those last two months were unexpected," said Andrew Houtenville, PhD, associate professor of economics at UNH and research director of the Institute on Disability. "We will be watching the next few months closely."

"Having to choose between work and health care seems unfathomable," said Dr. O'Neill, "but it's a choice that's often faced by jobseekers with disabilities." To address this issue, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services offers the Medicaid Buy-In program. This optional state Medicaid benefit group offers a path to health coverage for workers whose increased earnings put them at risk for ineligibility. "Not all employer health plans cover the services needed by workers with disabilities," noted Dr. O'Neill. "Medicaid Buy-in offers ways to maintain coverage for supports that enable people to live and work independently, such as personal assistance."

Medicaid Buy-in programs are offered in 45 states, and over 200,000 individuals with disabilities have taken advantage of this option. Information about eligibility for Medicaid options is available through state Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) programs, and Ticket to Work. These programs help individuals who are striving to work understand how work and benefits interact, and provide employment referrals and work incentives counseling.

In August 2018, among workers ages 16-64, the 4,601,000 workers with disabilities represented 3.2 percent of the total 145,851,000 workers in the U.S.


The next nTIDE will be issued on Friday, October 7, 2018.

Each nTIDE is followed by a noon nTIDE Lunch & Learn. This live broadcast, hosted via Zoom Webinar, offers attendees Q&A on the latest nTIDE findings, provides news and updates from the field, as well as invited panelists to discuss current disability-related findings and events.

MaryBeth Musumeci, JD, associate director of the Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured at the Kaiser Family Foundation, joins Dr. Houtenville, Dr. O'Neill, and Denise Rozell, policy strategist at AUCD, to Medicaid work requirements as they relate to people with disabilities. Join live, or watch the recordings at:

NOTE: The statistics in the nTIDE are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, but are not identical. They are customized by UNH to combine the statistics for men and women of working age (16 to 64). NTIDE is funded, in part, by grants from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (9ORT5022 and 90RT5017) and Kessler Foundation.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes -- including employment -- for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

About the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire

The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was established in 1987 to provide a coherent university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. For information on the NIDILRR-funded Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, visit

For more information, or to interview an expert, contact:

Carolann Murphy, 973.324.8382,;

Laura Viglione, 973.323.3675;;

Nicky Miller, 973.323.3683;

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