Fueled by a shrinking economy and an exploding health crisis, unemployment levels for people with disabilities hit a seven-year high in 2020 according to newly released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
“Fewer U.S. persons with a disability were employed in 2020 with a total employment rate of 17.9%, down from 19.3% in 2019,” reported Ryan Golden of HR Dive. “That translated to an unemployment rate of 12.6% for persons with a disability, the highest-such mark in seven years.”
According to Golden, the BLS said that “persons with a disability were more likely to work in service occupations and occupations involving production, transportation and material moving in 2020 than those without disabilities,” making them increasingly susceptible to pandemic-related job losses.
“For example, employment in leisure and hospitality — which represented 8.3% of employed persons with a disability — fell by 8.2 million jobs in the first two months of the pandemic,” Golden wrote. “The sector remains 3.9 million below February 2020 levels, according to a report [in February 2021] by BLS.”
While that added job loss has obviously been detrimental to the disabled community in the short term, Golden also pointed out overall trends that some industry experts believe took place within the workforce, which could end up being beneficial to disabled workers in the future.
“Accessibility to job opportunities has long been a challenge for individuals with disabilities,” Golden noted. “However, due to public health measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19, many employers adopted hiring processes that are mostly or entirely virtual. Moreover, that adoption is expected to continue well into 2021. Combined with other measures to reduce bias in the hiring process, this change could vastly improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities [over the long term].”