Disability and the Great Recession

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1 Disability and the Great Recession The Labor Market Impacts of the Economic Recession on Persons with Disabilities Neeta P. Fogg Paul E. Harrington Center for Labor Market Studies Northeastern University April 2010

2 Supported by DBTAC New England ADA Center; a project of the Institute for Human Centered Design (formerly Adaptive Environments) funded by the National Institute on Disability Research and Rehabilitation Grant #H133A CENTER FOR LABOR MARKET STUDIES Northeastern University

3 Table of Contents Introduction... 1 Job Losses... 1 Industry Employment Impacts of the Recession... 3 Occupational and Educational Impacts of the Recession... 6 Sluggish Employment Recovery... 9 Measuring Labor Market Problems of Persons With Disabilities during the Great Recession Labor Market Problems Labor Force Measures Unemployment and the Unemployment Rate Labor Force Reserve Labor Market Problems of the Employed Assessing the Combined Level of Labor Market Problems of Non Elderly Individuals with Disabilities... 44

4 Introduction American labor markets have entered into period of extraordinary decline since the end of The magnitude of job losses since that time has been quite large with the number of payroll jobs in the nation declining by more than 7 million jobs since December 2007 through September But payroll employment declines are only one manifestation of the losses sustained by American workers since the beginning of the Great Recession. The recession has resulted in a more than a doubling in the number of unemployed workers in the nation, an increasing withdrawal of workers from active participation in the job market, reduced hours of work and declining wages of those who are working. The impact of the recession on different working age population groups has been quite varied. As we will explore in this paper, rates of job losses have differed widely across industries and occupations, with blue collar workers in goods producing industries bearing a disproportionate share of the losses associated with the collapse of the nation s financial systemthe event which triggered the extraordinary declines in the labor market which we have observed since the fall of Teens and young adults have also experienced disproportionate adverse impacts from the recession as have those with fewer years of schooling. Using new monthly data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) this paper explores the nature and size of the labor market problems experienced by the population of disabled persons included within the scope of the CPS survey in the U.S. and the New England region. However, before we undertake this discussion it is useful to provide a more detailed discussion of the labor market impacts of the Great Recession that began at the end of Job Losses Each month BLS in cooperation with state workforce agencies conducts a survey of business establishments to measure the number of regular payroll jobs in the non agricultural sector of the American labor market. Among the most important source of economic data in the nation the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey provides insight into job growth and decline in the nation, in total and by industry. The data from the CES program serves as bell 1 Neeta P. Fogg and Paul E. Harrington, From Labor Shortage to Labor Surplus: The Changing Labor Market Context and Its Meaning for Higher Education, Continuing Higher Education Review, Fall, 2009

5 weather of labor market activity and overall economic well being by business and public policy leaders every month and is among the most watched data series produced by the U.S. government. Since December 2007 payroll employment levels have fallen each month, a historically high period of continuous job losses not seen since the data series was first implemented in Jon losses began during the end of 2007 with the total number of jobs declining by an average of 151,000 jobs over the December 2007 to August 2008 period. These losses were typical by historical standards and were interpreted by many observers as an indicator that the U.S. had Chart 1: Trends in Monthly Losses in Non Agricultural Payroll Employment in the U.S., December, 2007 to September, 2009 (Seasonally Adjusted in 000s) Monthly Change in Employment Jan 08 Feb 08 Mar 08 Apr 08 May 08 Jun 08 Jul 08 Aug 08 Sep 08 Oct 08 Nov 08 Dec 08 Jan 09 Feb 09 Mar 09 Apr 09 May 09 Jun 09 Jul 09 Aug 09 Sep 09 entered into a period of recession primarily caused by rapid increases in energy prices that resulted in economic slowdown in the nation. 2 However, during the early fall of 2008, the rate of job loss accelerated rapidly. In September and October alone the nation lost 1,000,000 jobs. Over 2 Douglas Elmendorf, The State of the Economy, Statement before the Committee on the Budget,U.S. House of Representatives, May 21,

6 the next six month the economy shed jobs at an extraordinary pace. Between October 2008 and the nation shed 4.2 million jobs, averaging a staggering 697,000 jobs lost per month over this period. Since then the pace of job loss in the nation has moderated considerably as GDP grew sharply in the second half of During the spring and summer of 2009 the mean number of jobs lost per month was halved to a still very large 337,000. This slowdown in the volume of jobs lost was in part a response to massive intervention by both the Federal Reserve system and the U.S. Treasury (as well as banking and treasury interventions around the world) that were designed to restore confidence in a financial system on the brink of collapse. Some observers believe that the economic recession ended in September last year as the effects of aggressive federal monetary and fiscal policies began to stimulate economic recovery. 3 If we date the recession from December 2007 through September of 2009 then the Great Recession lasted a total of 21 months and generated massive payroll employment losses on the order of 8.1 million lost jobs, a relative loss of 5.9 from the pre-recession employment peak. Since last September economic expansion has returned with strong growth in output during the fourth quarter of 2009 and a very sharp slowdown in the rate of payroll employment losses in the nation, this turnaround that began in September is discussed in a subsequent section of this paper. Industry Employment Impacts of the Recession The very large losses in overall payroll employment levels that occurred over the course of the economic downturn were of course not evenly distributed across all sectors of the economy. The BLS payroll survey found that over the past 21 months much of the decline in firm employment levels have been concentrated among goods producing businesses. The data reveal that employment levels in the construction sector fell by more than one fifth (22.4 percent) over the course of the downturn. Job losses in the manufacturing sector were similarly large with a 15 percent reduction in the number of wage and salary workers employed among the nation s manufacturing producers. Together the construction and manufacturing sectors lost 3.54 million jobs over the seven quarters of recession, accounting for about one half of all jobs losses in the 3 Greg Robb, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Said Recession Tuesday that the Recession Has Ended, at Least Based on the Numbers MarketWatch, September 15,

7 nation. These declines make workers employed in goods producing firms especially vulnerable to job loss, reductions in weeks and hours of work and sharp income declines. The trade, transportation and utilities (TTU), composed of wholesale and retail trade industries, the transportation sector ranging from warehousing and trucking, to airlines and taxicabs and the utilities sector, saw employment fall by 1.66 million jobs over the course of the downturn. Much of this loss was concentrated among retail trade business establishments including auto dealers and building material stores. Finally, the oddly named administrative and waste services sector experienced a loss of 1.18 million jobs over the course of the economic Table 1: Trends in Non Agricultural Payroll Employment by Major Industry Sector in the U.S. (Seasonally adjusted, in thousands) Major Industry Sector December, 2007 September, 2009 Absolute Change Relative Change Private, Total 115, ,377-8, % Construction 7,491 5,814-1, % Manufacturing 13,276 11,634-1, % Trade Transportation Utilities 26,709 24,754-1, % Wholesale Trade 6,037 5, % Retail Trade 15,566 14,428-1, % Transportation Warehousing 4,548 4, % Information 3,023 2, % Financial Activities 8,227 7, % Professional and Business Services 18,051 16,349-1, % Professional Technical 7,801 7, % Management of Companies 1,898 1, % Administrative and Waste Management 8,350 7,066-1, % Education and Health Service 18,559 19, % Education 2,977 3, % Health 13,106 13, % Social Assistance 2,474 2, % Leisure Hospitality 13,535 13, % Other Services 5,514 5, % Government 22,377 22, % Federal 2,755 2, % State 5,140 5, % Local 14,482 14, % Source: Current Employment Statistics Survey, various months, 4

8 recession. Much of the job loss in this industry was concentrated among temporary help firms who provide who supply workers to a wide variety of industries on a time limited basis. The temporary help industry helps firms make easy, short-term adjustments to changes in product demand by quickly adding or subtracting workers who have only a temporary relationship with a business; one consequence of this role is that temporary help industry employment levels are very sensitive to changes in economic growth and decline. These four industry sectors together accounted for nearly 90 percent of the net job loss experienced across the nation over the course of the Great Recession. Chart 2: Percentage Distribution of Job Losses by Major Industry Sector in the U.S., December 2007 to September 2009 All Other, 12% Construction, 21% Administrative & Waste Services, 16% Manufacturing, 29% Trade Transportation and Utilities, 23% Source: Current Employment Statistics Survey, various months, However, it is important to note that even as these industries lost very large numbers of jobs other sectors of the nation s economy had much smaller losses and in some cases had net job gains over the course of the downturn. The private education sector, including private colleges and universities as well as trade, technical, computer and business clerical schools, saw its employment levels increase modestly since the end of These organizations saw their payroll employment levels increase by 81,000 jobs over the last 21 months, expanding wage and 5

9 salary employment levels by 2.7 percent over the period. Payroll employment levels in the health and sector of the economy have also increased since the beginning of the economic recession. Since December of 2007 employment levels in this sector, largely driven by growth ambulatory care centers, hospitals and nursing care facilities, has increased by 475,000 jobs, a rise of 3.6 percent over the past 21 months of recession. Social assistance organizations including family and individual assistance providers have posted the strongest job growth of any private sector industry sector in the nation expanding by 4.4 percent during a period characterized by massive job losses. Government payroll employment levels also appear to be largely unaffected by the economic recession through the third quarter of 2009, at in comparison to private sector employment. Federal payroll employment levels rose modestly since the end of 2007 adding about 72,000 jobs since then. State and local government payroll employment levels are largely unchanged over the entire period of economic downturn. The findings on industry employment levels reveal that goods producing industries bore the brunt of the economic downturn as measured by job losses followed by the trade sector and the temporary help services sector. In contrast, private education, health services/social services and all levels of government were largely insulated from job losses and in some instance were able to expand payroll employment levels in the face of a sharp slowdown in the level of economic activity in the nation. Occupational and Educational Impacts of the Recession The sharp differences in employment developments across different industrial sectors of the nation s labor market exert considerable influence on the occupational impact of the economic recession. The findings in Table 2 examine trends in employment level by major occupational groups in the American economy for the September 2007 to September These data provide some insight into the occupational impacts of industry job losses over the recession. Construction and manufacturing staffing patterns are still heavily dominated by blue 4 These data discussed in this section are derived from the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of about 60,000 households. As a household survey its measure of employment differs somewhat from the business establishment survey. The data we use on employment by occupation are not seasonally adjusted. Consequently, we compare the same months over the period of decline. See: BLS Handbook of Methods, Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Establishment Survey, Comparison with the Current Population Survey, September,

10 collar workers in variety of occupational areas. The data on employment trends by occupation reveal that over the last two years blue collar jobs losses have been little short of enormous. Employment among construction trades workers and laborers decline by over 2 million jobs. Skilled blue collar workers in the installation and repair occupations saw employment fall by 574,000, while employment in the largely semi-skilled and unskilled production related occupations fell by nearly 1.7 million. Employment among material movers including drivers and warehouse workers fell by 678,000. Together employment in these blue collar occupations declined by 4.98 million, accounting for more than two thirds of the total employment decline that occurred in the nation over the last two years. Table 2: Trends in Employment by Major Occupation, September 2007 to September 2009 (Not Seasonally Adjusted, in Thousands) Major Occupation Sep-07 Sep-09 Absolute Change Relative Change Managerial/Financial 21,528 21, % Professional 30,380 30, % Service 24,659 24, % Sales 16,277 15, % Office and Clerical 19,484 17,755-1, % Construction Trades/Laborers 9,503 7,468-2, % Installation/Repair 5,454 4, % Production Workers 9,371 7,677-1, % Material Moving 8,823 8, % Total 145, ,163-7, % Source: Current Population Survey, Employment in office and clerical occupations also declined sharply over the last two years in part because of large reductions in employment levels in the retail trade sector that employs workers in a number of clerical jobs such as cashiers. These blue collar and clerical occupations employ relatively high shares of persons with lower levels of educational attainment, with especially high concentrations of high school graduates or persons with some post secondary schooling, but no degree. In contrast, managerial and financial and professional occupations employ workers who are more likely to have completed a college degree program. Over the same two year period, employment in these college labor market occupations actually increased slightly. 7

11 As the job losses associated with the economic recession were concentrated in goods producing industries that employed large number of blue collar workers the cascade of employment decline also impacted persons at very different rates based on their level of educational attainment. Over the last 21 months employment losses have been especially large among adults with fewer years of schooling. Employment among high school dropouts and high school graduates (aged 25+) declined precipitously since the end of 2007 and the fall of last year. Employment levels among dropouts and graduates together have fallen by 4.3 million over the period, representing an 8 percent reduction in employment levels among adults with no college. Table 3: Trends in Employment among the Civilian Population Aged 25 and Over, December, 2007 to October, 2009, U.S. (Seasonally Adjusted, in Thousands) December 2007 September 2009 Absolute Change Relative Change Educational Attainment Less than High School, No Diploma 11,317 10, % High School Graduate/GED, No College 36,787 33,956-3, % Some College 34,924 33,588-1, % Bachelor's Degree or Higher 43,616 43, % Source: Current Population Survey, Employment Situation, Table A-4, various months Adults with some post secondary schooling have fared much better during this recession, compared to their counterparts, at least by the measure of relative employment decline. Employment among those with a college degree fell by 1.3 million over the course of the recession, a relative loss of 4 percent. Even as employment among adults with fewer years of schooling declined, the number of employed college graduates remained unchanged. Over the course of the entire economic recession adult college graduates experienced no net employment losses. Losses in goods producing and trade industries that were concentrated in blue collar and clerical occupations resulted in massive job losses among those with a high school diploma or those who failed to even to complete high school. In contrast, industry sectors that employed large shares of college graduates, including health, education and social services as well as federal, state and local government have experienced little job loss since the beginning of the recession. 8

12 Sluggish Employment Recovery The interventions in financial markets and passage of a federal stimulus spending program both helped reduce the pace of employment declines in the nation. Indeed, during the fourth quarter of 2009 recent estimates of Gross Domestic Product growth suggest that GDP in the nation grew at an annual pace of over 5 percent, largely as a result of government interventions. 5 Following this GDP expansion the pace of job loss has slowed dramatically with payroll employment levels declining by just 107,000 jobs between September 2009 and March In recent months payroll employment levels in the nation have turned positive. Since last fall the job market has experienced a series of fluctuations shifting between positive and negative changes in overall payroll employment levels. This development has come on the heels of mixed data on the performance of various elements of the nation s economy, including continuing weak Chart 3: Trends in Monthly Losses in Non Agricultural Payroll Employment in the U.S., September 2009 to March 2010 (Seasonally Adjusted in 000s) Monthly Change in Employment Oct 09 Nov 09 Dec 09 Jan 10 Feb 10 Mar 10 Source: Current Employment Statistics Survey, various months, 5 Bureau of Economic Analysis Gross Domestic Product: Fourth Quarter 2009 Third Estimate, BEA See also John Makin, The Year to Date, AEI Outlook Series, March

13 real estate markets, but a strengthening in equity markets associated with low interest rates and a surprisingly strong corporate profit picture that developed last fall, itself a partial result of rising firm productivity associated with staffing reductions. Job growth in the nation has been heavily concentrated in temporary help services firms, education and health service providers and a hire-up at the federal level associated with temporary enumeration staffing hire-ups for the 2010 decennial census. Temporary help firms expanded their payrolls by more than 313,000 jobs since September of last year while the health Table 4: Trends in Non Agricultural Payroll Employment by Major Industry Sector in the U.S. (Seasonally adjusted, in thousands) Major Industry Sector September 2009 March 2010 Absolute Change Relative Change Private 107, , % Construction 5,814 5, % Manufacturing 11,634 11, % Trade Transportation Utilities 24,754 24, % Wholesale Trade 5,579 5, % Retail Trade 14,428 14, % Transportation Warehousing 4,184 4, % Information 2,777 2, % Financial Activities 7,683 7, % Professional and Business Services 16,349 16, % Professional Technical 7,444 7, % Management of Companies 1,837 1, % Administrative and Waste Mgmt 7,066 7, % Education/Health/Social Service 19,247 19, % Education 3,080 3, % Health 13,581 13, % Social Assistance 2,584 2, % Leisure Hospitality 13,099 13, % Other Services 5,344 5, % Government 22,480 22, % Federal 2,818 2, % State 5,173 5, % Local 14,489 14,419 Source: Current Employment Statistics Survey, various months, % 10

14 sector added another 113,000 jobs. Partially offsetting the growth in employment in these industry sectors has been continued sustained declines in employment among the nation s goods producing industries, especially the construction sector that is confronted with weak housing demand and continued deterioration in the nation s commercial real estate markets. Construction payrolls have fallen by an additional 222,000 jobs since last fall and manufacturing employment has fallen by another 55,000 jobs since then. The information (especially print media) has continued to post losses and the financial sector; in particular the real estate industry has also lost a considerable number of jobs since last fall. Measuring Labor Market Problems of Persons with Disabilities during the Great Recession In past it has not been possible to effectively assess the impact of the business cycle on the employment and earnings experiences of persons with disabilities. While a number of federal statistical programs that gather information about labor market activity also collect information about persons with disabilities, these data collection programs for a variety of reasons have not been designed to specifically deal with the impact of the business cycle on the employment and earnings experiences of persons with disabilities or even measure the labor force activity of persons with a disability. 6 However, in mid 2008 the U.S. Bureau of the Census began collecting systematic information on persons with a disability in the working age population of the nation though the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS.) The CPS is a monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by Census that includes a wide variety of questions on the characteristics of the nation s population. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also participates in the CPS survey with the responsibility to develop relevant labor force concepts, questions and measures that are employed in the CPS. Indeed, each month BLS releases the Employment Situation report that provides monthly measures of labor force activity and performance for the nation, including the official measure of the nation s unemployment rate. 7 Beginning in October 2008, the BLS began publishing monthly estimates of the labor force status of persons with disabilities for the nation based on findings from the CPS monthly 6 Thomas Hale, The Lack of a Disability Measure in Today s Current Population Survey, Monthly Labor Review, June, For a discussion of the BLS role in the CPS program see: Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: How the Government Measures Unemployment, 11

15 household survey. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) the CPS survey employs a set of questions developed for use in the Census Bureau s American Community Survey. These questions examine limitations encountered by respondents associated with daily living activities. An affirmative answer to any one of the six questions (provided below) would result in that individual household member being classified as disabled in that month. These questions on disability inquire about sensory, cognitive and physical limitations in activities of daily life for all persons aged 16 and over residing in households in the nation. They exclude the population of individuals who reside in institutions and thus are not a comprehensive measure of the overall size of the population with disabilities in the nation. Instead, these questions are designed to measure the number of working age residents of households who report that they have at least one limitation in a daily activity of life as specified in the six questions listed below. CPS Questions about Disability This month we want to learn about people who have physical, mental, or emotional conditions that cause serious difficulty with their daily activities. Please answer for household members who are 16 years old or over. Is anyone deaf or does anyone have serious difficulty hearing? Is anyone blind or does anyone have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses? Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does anyone have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions? Does anyone have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs? Does anyone have difficulty dressing or bathing? Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does anyone have difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor s office or shopping? Source: In addition to these questions the CPS collects a variety of information about the labor market activities of the 16 and older population that serve as the basis for the monthly 12

16 unemployment data that are released each month by BLS. Indeed, the CPS provides a wide array of information about the labor market status, employment and earnings experiences of a number of demographic groups in the nation s working age population. The remainder of this paper is based on the findings of the monthly CPS survey for the nation and is based on monthly data covering the period of June 2008 (the first month, in which data on disability status was collected, through September, 2009). Using the monthly public use data files for this period we have created a set of tabulations that examine the major labor market problems of persons with disabilities and compare their labor market outcomes with those of the non disabled population over the bulk of the months characterized by economic recession in 2008 and Labor Market Problems Economic losses during an economic recession can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Open unemployment, that is, the official unemployment reported each month by BLS is just one of a variety of labor market problems that workers might encounter during an economic downturn. During economic downturns some jobless persons withdraw from the labor market even though they would like to work. Sometimes referred to as the labor force reserve, this group of persons represents a form of productive labor supply potential that is not being effectively utilized, but it is not counted in the official measure of unemployment. Indeed, during economic recoveries, this group is likely to enter the labor force at a rapid pace, causing the official unemployment rate to rise as individuals in the labor force reserve enter the labor force and begin more active job search activities. Workers who are openly unemployed along with those jobless persons in the labor force reserve represent lost production that results in decreased personal earnings and lower household incomes, resulting from problems of economic underutilization. Economic recessions do not exclusively manifest themselves in the labor market through rising joblessness. Economic decline also impacts those who are employed. One way that employed persons are adversely affected by recessions is through reductions in weekly hours of work. Large numbers of both public and private organizations have implemented both formal programs and informal efforts that reduce the weekly hours of work of payroll workers. Thus, during this economic downturn firms have adjusted to the recession by increasing the number of workers who are involuntarily part time workers. Workers who are working in part-time jobs 13

17 involuntarily include those persons who want to work a full-time schedule of 35 hours or more per week but have had their scheduled weekly hours reduced. (this is sometimes referred to as furloughing workers) or are unable to find a full-time position and thus work in a part-time job. Once again, those with reduced hours of work are experiencing a form of underutilization, that is, the labor market environment inhibits their ability to fully utilize their production capacities and increase their weekly earnings. A fourth labor market problem of workers centers around low weekly pay for full-time workers. Subsets of workers are employed on a full-time basis each week, but their hourly wage rates are quite low. Full-time, low wage workers are those workers who do work in full-time jobs but their hourly rates of pay yield weekly full-time earnings that are insufficient to raise a family of three above the poverty income threshold which was $17,163 in In this instance, the labor market problem for these workers is not connected to joblessness or even reduced hours of work. Their earnings are low despite employment in full-time jobs because of low hourly wage rates. The number of persons experiencing these four kinds of labor market problems for various time periods can be estimated using data derived from the monthly CPS survey. Such analyses provide more comprehensive measures of the nature of labor market problems experienced by different segments of the working age population. Utilizing the monthly CPS public use micro data files for the period between June 2008 (when the CPS collection of data on persons with disabilities began) and September 2009, we have measured the extent to which the non elderly working-age population (between the ages of 16 and 64) experienced the four different labor market problems described above. Using observations for this 16 month period characterized by the economic recession enables us to provide a careful and statistically powerful analysis of the nature of labor market hardship experienced by persons with a disability and to assess their experiences in the job market over this period of time with those of the non disabled population. Labor Force Measures The CPS household survey contains a number of questions that are designed to determine the labor force status of the working age population during the reference week of the survey. 14

18 These questions are designed to enable BLS to assign every working age person in the nation to one of three mutually exclusive labor force categories at the time of the survey. All working age respondents to the CPS are classified into one of the following three categories each month: employed, unemployed and not in the labor force. These assignments are based on the responses provided by a responsible adult in the sample households selected for participation in the survey in a given month and then properly weighted to reflect the entire population within the scope of the survey. 8 The first category, employed persons, include individuals aged 16 and over who did any paid work at all during the survey reference week as well as persons who worked for 15 or more hours in an unpaid family business. It also includes all persons who had jobs, but were not at work due to labor disputes, illness, vacation and similar reasons for temporary absence from work. The count of employment is unique, that is persons who may have worked at more than one job during the survey reference week are counted only once as an employed person by the household survey. The measure of employment is quite broad in nature and could include a wide range of workers from babysitters to corporate CEOs. The employment measure by itself implies nothing about the quality or quantity of work activity undertaken by employed persons. Unemployed persons include all those in the working age population who were not employed during the survey reference week AND who were actively engaged in a job search at some point in four weeks prior to the reference week, and were immediately available for work. The measure of unemployment provides a gauge of unutilized labor supply capacity in the nation. It measures the number of persons willing and able to go to work right away, but have not yet been successful in finding a job, and remain actively engaged in the jobs market. As the unemployed definition indicates, not all working aged persons are classified as unemployed. Jobless persons who are not actively seeking work or who are not available to work immediately are excluded from the unemployment count. Persons who are not classified as employed or unemployed are considered to be disengaged from the job market and thus are not included in official measures of the American labor force. The labor force itself is the sum of all employed persons plus all unemployed persons. Persons who are neither employed nor 8 See U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, Handbook of Methods, Chapter 1, 15

19 unemployed are classified into a residual category of persons who are not in the labor force. Most persons who are not in the labor force do not have a desire to work. Home responsibilities and retirement represent just some of the reasons why working age adults are not actively engaged in the labor market. However, some persons who are not actively engaged in the labor force do have a job desire, but have not actively looked for work in recent weeks or are unavailable to go to work immediately. The diagram below illustrates the distribution of the population aged 16 to 64 by labor force status in the nation on an average monthly basis for the June 2008 to September, 2009 time period that is covered in our analysis. We are limiting the scope of the analysis to the non elderly working age population which over this time period averaged million persons. We chose Chart 4: Labor Force Status of the Year Old Population in the US Monthly Average, June 2008 September 2009 these age boundaries to exclude the retirement years and instead focused our study on those years where employment is a primary life activity. 9 The population of the nation for the year old age group averaged million. A substantial majority of these persons were actively engaged in the labor market with persons classified as employed yielding an employment to population ratio (E to P ratio) of 69.2 percent. The number of unemployed persons averaged 9 For a more careful discussion of the labor market activities and incidence of disability among the older worker see Neeta Fogg, Paul Harrington, and Alison Dickson, Demographic Characteristics and Labor Force Attachment of the 55 Years and Older Population in Eastern Massachusetts. Prepared for The New England Council Commission on the Older Workforce,

20 11.9 million persons accounting for an additional 6.1 percent of the population cohort. 10 The number of persons aged classified in the residual group not in the labor averaged 48.9 million persons accounting for the remaining 24.7 percent of the 16 to 64 year old population in the nation. The labor force behavior of the population varies considerably across key demographic groups. The findings provided in Table 5 present findings on the labor force status of the non elderly working age population by disability status during the period of time in which the nation s economy experienced most of its job losses associated with the Great Recession. The data reveal sharp differences in the labor force status of the non elderly population based on their disability status. The data reveal that only 30.9 percent of the non elderly population with Table 5: Labor Force Status of the 16 to 64 Year Old Population in the U.S., By Disability Status (Monthly Averages) June 2008 September 2009 All Persons with Disabilities Persons without Disabilities Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Population 197,357, % 14,907, % 182,449, % Employed 136,549, % 4,607, % 131,942, % Unemployed 11, % 746, % 11,202, % OLF 48,859, % 9,554, % 39,305, % Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Monthly Current Population Public Use Data Files, Tabulations by the authors. disabilities was employed on average over the period of extensive job losses and an additional 5.0 percent of persons with disabilities in this age group were actively engaged in the labor market, but counted as unemployed. Together, these two groups accounted for just 35.9 of the non elderly working age population of persons with disabilities. This number also represents the measure of the labor force participation rate of this population group. That is, a total of million persons with disabilities (4.607 million employed + 746,000 unemployed) out of the total population of million or 35.9 percent were active participants in the nation s labor force. The residual figure of 9.5 million or 64.1 percent is the monthly average share of persons with a disability who were not in the labor force during this time period. 10 This level is not the unemployment rate, but the share of the population that is unemployed. The official unemployment rate for the 16 to 64 year old population over this period of time averaged 8.0 percent. The official unemployment rate uses the labor force in the denominator, not the total population. 17

21 The rate of labor force participation of persons with disabilities is much lower than that observed for their counterparts without disabilities. The labor force participation rate of the non elderly working age population with a disability averaged 35.9 percent over the time period. In contrast the participation rate of their counterparts who were not disabled was 78.5 percent, or more than double the rate of labor force attachment found among their counterparts with a disability. In a subsequent section of the paper we will explore some the reasons that those outside of the labor force provide for their lack of participation in the job market. Chart 5: Labor Force Participation Rates of the 16 to 64 Year Old Population in the U.S., by Disability Status, June 2008 to September % 75% 75.2% 78.5% Labor Force Participation Rate 50% 35.9% 25% 0% All With Disability Without Disability Most of the difference in the labor force participation rate between persons with a disability and those without a disability is associated with differences in the employment to population ratio. The data in Table 5 reveal that persons without disabilities were 2.3 times more likely to work during this period of time compared to the rate of work among persons with disabilities (72.3 percent versus 30.9 percent). In contrast, the share of non elderly persons with disabilities who were unemployed was not much different than that observed for those without disabilities. Indeed the share of non disabled classified as unemployed (6.1 percent) was actually 18

22 greater than the share of persons with disabilities who were classified as unemployed (5.0 percent.) Thus, these data suggest that none of the difference in labor force participation rates between persons without disabilities and persons with disabilities is associated with official unemployment. This is not to suggest that unemployment is not a serious problem among the disabled, but it is important to note that unemployment does not explain the differences in labor force participation between the two groups. However, unemployment is a primary source of labor market problems confronting labor force participants with disabilities. Labor market problems must be assessed in the context of labor force participation. Thus the measures of labor market problems we employ in this study largely exclude those outside of the labor force and instead focus primarily on those who are actively engaged in the job market. Many factors influence individual choices to participate in the labor force. 11 Two of the most important are age and educational attainment. Labor force attachment is generally positively associated with the age of individuals. The share of working age persons in the nation with no disability who are actively participating rise sharply from the teenage years up to the prime workforce age that ranges from 25 to 54 and then begins to decline during the preretirement ages of 55 to 64. This life-cycle pattern of labor force participation is found in most Table 6: Labor Force Participation Rates of the 16 to 64 Year Old Population in the U.S., by Age and Disability Status, June 2008 to September 2009 Age Without Disabilities With Disabilities Absolute Difference (Percentage Points) Relative Difference % 31% % % 50% % % 49% % % 45% % % 42% % % 35% % % 28% % Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Monthly Current Population Public Use Data Files, Tabulations by the authors. 11 See: Mitra Toosi, Labor force projections to 2016: more workers in their golden years, Monthly Labor Review November 2007; Abraham Mosisa and Steven Hipple, Trends in labor force participation in the United States, Monthly Labor Review, October 2006; George Psacharopolous and Zafiris Tzaanatos, Education and Female Labor Force Participation, paper presented at the Sixth World Conference of Comparative Education, Rio de Janeiro, July

23 studies of labor force behavior. A closer look at the labor force participation behavior of persons with disabilities during the Great Recession reveals a strikingly different pattern. Unlike the nondisabled population, the labor force participation of persons with a disability appears to be negatively associated with age. Indeed, labor force participation rates of persons with a disability decline after age 24 into the prime workforce age years and continues to fall through the preretirement years. Consequently the size of the gap in labor force participation rates between the working age population with disabilities and without disabilities rises with age. Labor force participation is also generally positively associated with levels of educational attainment, especially for persons with disabilities. Increases in years of schooling and degrees earned are associated with rising rates of labor force participation. The findings provided in Table 7 reveal that educational attainment and labor force participation are positively connected for both persons with disabilities and the non disabled population. Among high school dropouts the monthly mean labor force participation rate for non disabled persons aged 16 to 64 was 56.1 percent over the period. In sharp contrast only about one in five persons with disabilities who were high school dropouts actively participated in the nation s job market. Thus persons with disabilities who failed to complete high school were nearly two-thirds less likely to participate in the labor market than their non disabled counterparts. Table 7: Labor Force Participation Rates of the 16 to 64 Year Old Population in the U.S., by Age and Disability Status, June 2008 to September 2009 Without Disabilities With Disabilities Absolute Difference (Percentage Points) Relative Difference Educational Attainment Less than High School, No Diploma 56.1% 20.9% % High School Diploma/GED, no College 79.6% 33.7% % Some College 81.1% 42.5% % Bachelor s Degree 86.3% 52.7% % Master's or Higher Degree 88.1% 59.8% % Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Monthly Current Population Public Use Data Files, Tabulations by the authors. High school graduates with disabilities were considerably more likely to participate in the labor market than those persons with disabilities who had dropped out of high school. However, 20

24 their labor force participation rates that were much lower than that of high school graduates without disabilities. High school graduate persons with disabilities had a labor force participation rate of 34 percent; sharply above the 21 percent labor force participation rate of persons with disabilities who were dropouts but still considerably lower than the nearly 80 percent participation rate of high school graduates without disabilities. Earning a four year college degree sharply increased the rate of labor force attachment of persons with a disability. Persons with disabilities with a four year college degree were 1.5 times more likely to be actively engaged in the labor market than their high school graduate counterparts (52.7 percent versus 33.7 percent). In contrast four-year college graduates without a disability were just 1.08 times more likely to participate in the labor market than their counterparts with just a high school diploma (86.3 percent versus 79.6 percent). This means that the participation gap between persons with disabilities and their counterparts without disabilities narrowed as the level of educational attainment increased. Persons with disabilities high school graduates were 58 percent less likely to participate in the labor market than their non disabled counterparts. But this difference fell to under 40 percent for those with a four-year college degree. Additional education at the master s degree level and beyond further reduced this gap down to 32 percent. These findings suggest that even during this period of economic decline educational attainment exerted a strong and positive effect on the likelihood that a person with a disability will actively engage in the job market. Unemployment and the Unemployment Rate Perhaps the most frequently cited and best understood measure of labor market activity in the nation, the official unemployment rate measure produced monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and published in its Employment Situation release is designed to measure the degree of underutilization of the nation s labor force at a point in time. In essence it is a measure of idle human resources that are willing and able to be employed in some productive market based activity. Consequently the official measure of unutilized labor supply is placed in the context of those who are either supplying labor through their current employment or are actively trying to supply their labor as indicated by their jobs search efforts. Thus the measure of unemployment is calculated in the following way: 21

25 Number Unemployed * 100 = Unemployment Rate Number in Labor Force Using current monthly average data for the June 2008-September 2009 period, we find the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is nearly 14 percent: 746,444 * 100 = 13.9% 5,353,479 Earlier we found that even during the Great Recession, unemployment accounted for only a small share of the 16 to 64 year old population with a disability. We found that just 5 percent of the 16 to 64 year old persons with disabilities were officially classified as unemployed and that this share was actually lower than the 6.1 percent share of unemployed persons observed among the non disabled population. However, as the findings in the Chart 6 (below) reveal, the unemployment rate (which is measured as a share of the labor force) for persons with a disability averaged a much higher 13.9 percent over this period of economic decline. Indeed, in contrast to Chart 6: Official Unemployment Rates among Labor Force Participants between 16 and 64 Years Old, By Disability Status and Gender, Monthly Average, June 2008 to September % 14% 13.9% 14.6% 13.2% 12% Unemployment Rate 10% 8% 6% 7.8% 8.6% 7.0% 4% 2% 0% All Male Female With Disability Without Disability 22

26 our earlier population based findings of unemployed persons representing a lower share of the population among persons with disabilities compared to the share among persons without disabilities, the data reveal that the official unemployment rate which is a labor force based measure, was 1.8 times greater among persons with disabilities than among persons without disabilities. Our earlier finding that only about 5 percent of the population of disabled persons was officially unemployed is merely a measure of the incidence of unemployment among the population of persons with disabilities aged 16 to 64. But as the formula (above) reveals, the unemployment rate is measured on the basis of only the active labor force, which means that the unemployment rate is a measure of underutilization of only those persons with disabilities who are actively supplying labor. When measured in its proper context of the labor force, the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is 13.9 percent indicating a much more severe problem of underutilization among persons with disabilities during the Great Recession than is the case for the non disabled population. Unemployment rates of course differ not only by disability status, but also by a variety of other factors. The findings in Table 8 reveal not only that labor force participants with disabilities are much more likely to be unemployed than their non disabled counterparts, but that sharp differences in official unemployment rates exist across age groups. Unemployment rates are generally negatively associated with age. That is, the problem of unemployment is most Table 8: Official Unemployment Rates of the 16 to 64 Year Old Population in the U.S., by Age and Disability Status, June 2008 to September 2009 Age Without Disabilities With Disabilities Absolute Difference (Percentage Points) Relative Difference % 33.4% % % 22.2% % % 20.3% % % 17.2% % % 14.7% % % 11.3% % % 9.0% % Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Monthly Current Population Public Use Data Files, Tabulations by the authors. 23

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