News Release 

nTIDE May 2021 COVID Update: Minimal changes in unemployment reflect slow pace of recovery

National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) - issued semi-monthly by Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire

Kessler Foundation

Science Business Announcement


IMAGE: This graphic compares the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with and without disabilities, capturing pre-pandemic and current unemployment data for January 2020 to May 2021. view more 

Credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ. June 18, 2021. The May numbers for furloughed workers remained relatively steady, according to today's National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) COVID Update.

This mid-month nTIDE follows two key unemployment indicators - furloughs, or temporary layoffs, and the number of people looking for work, comparing trends for people with and without disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic precipitated an unprecedented rise in furloughs and people looking for work, prompting the addition of this mid-month nTIDE COVID Update in the spring of 2020.

As shown in the updated graphic, May unemployment numbers showed a small increase in furloughs for people with disabilities, and a small decline for people without disabilities. For both groups, the numbers looking for work rose slightly. These changes do not alter the overall picture, which remains one of slow progress toward recovery, according to economist Andrew Houtenville, PhD, research director of the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, and co-author of nTIDE. "Unemployment appears to be leveling off but at a higher level," he noted. "We're still seeing the same levels we saw in the summer and fall of 2020. Could this be a new normal? It's too early to say."

As the pandemic subsides and economic activity increases, employers are seeking workers. Dr. Houtenville anticipates more openings for workers as sectors like travel, sports, and entertainment return to their pre-pandemic schedules. "As job openings increase, we will see a lot of shifting in the labor market. Recovery will continue, most likely at a slow pace," he predicted. "It will take time to reduce these chronically high unemployment numbers."

Rebuilding the economy offers opportunities to change the landscape for employment in the U.S. Dr. Houtenville noted: "By ensuring that their hiring initiatives are based on diversity, employers will contribute to an American workforce that is truly inclusive."


Because of observance of the Juneteenth holiday, no webinar was scheduled for this June 18 nTIDE COVID Update. Register for next month's nTIDE webinars: July 2, 2021 nTIDE Jobs Report, and our July 23, 2021 COVID Update at

This COVID Update is an extra edition of National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE), a joint project of Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, co-authored by Dr. Houtenville and John O'Neill, PhD, of Kessler Foundation. The nTIDE team closely monitors the job numbers, issuing semi-monthly nTIDE reports, as the labor market continues to reflect the many challenges of the pandemic.

Funding: Kessler Foundation and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (90RT5037)

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

Interested in trends on disability employment? Contact Carolann Murphy to arrange an interview with our experts:

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