Unemployment numbers for workers with disabilities have returned to pre-pandemic levels and remained steady there for several months, according to data released this week by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire. That’s good news for workers with disabilities, according to researchers, but challenges may be on the horizon.
Pandemic-driven unemployment affected workers with disabilities disproportionately. According to a 2021 report from the National Governors’ Association, the number of employed working-age individuals with disabilities fell by 20% when the coronavirus pandemic first took hold in the U.S.; that number was only 14% for those without disabilities.
Today, according to the latest research, that lost ground has been recovered. But those gains could be in jeopardy considering today’s inflation numbers, researchers said.
“With five interest rate hikes so far this year, and the likelihood of two more to come, we need to anticipate an impact on the labor market down the road,” Andrew Houtenville, professor of economics at the University of Hampshire and research director of the UNH Institute on Disability, said in a statement.
“Successful reining in of inflation means slower growth — that may eventually prompt some employers to cut back on hiring, resulting in tightening of the labor market and rising unemployment,” he continued.
Some have called on employers to revisit their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to combat pandemic losses when it comes to employment of workers with disabilities. Among other things, employers can prioritize mentorship, apprenticeships and job coaching, sources previously told HR Dive.