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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015


DiNapoli: People With Disabilities in New York City Have Higher Unemployment Rates and Lower Incomes

October 10, 2019

People with disabilities in New York City face the same challenges as those elsewhere in the nation, including obstacles to employment, higher rates of poverty and lower earnings than those without disabilities, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The Comptroller released the report at an event marking National Disability Employment Awareness Month with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

“There is a stark disparity in employment rates and wages for people with disabilities,” said DiNapoli. “A recent study shows that when businesses embrace disability inclusion, it benefits the corporation and its shareholders. There are some positive signs that companies are opening up jobs to people with disabilities, but more needs to be done to get employers to recognize that inclusion is a smart business decision. Fortunately, New York City is moving in the right direction with progressive leadership on this important issue.”

"In order to lower the unemployment rate for people with disabilities we need to change the culture in the workplace." said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. "Businesses need to understand the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and the barriers that they face to employment. Jobseekers with disabilities need the opportunity to demonstrate their value to employers and understand how to navigate the unique challenges they face. Through MOPD's employment initiative NYC: ATWORK we work with both sides to increase their connections and move the needle on the unemployment rate for people with disabilities. We applaud Comptroller DiNapoli's leadership in raising awareness on employment for people with disabilities and look forward to a continuing partnership."

“I lost my leg to bone cancer at age 12. Since then, I have fought, as a citizen, attorney and legislator, for the civil rights of people with disabilities. As we prepare to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act in July 2020, it’s important to recognize our progress. However, when it comes to employment, a cornerstone of the American dream, we have great work ahead of us, “ said Ted Kennedy Jr., disability rights attorney and Board Chair, American Association of People with Disabilities. “This report underscores the work we have ahead of us. Tools like the Disability Equality Index (DEI) helps companies measure their own progress on disability inclusion and challenges them to improve their policies and practices – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s also good for business.”

DiNapoli’s report released focuses on New York City and is based on U.S. Census figures from 2017. There were 930,100 people with disabilities residing in the city, representing 11 percent of the total population. While city’s current job expansion – now in its tenth year – is the largest and longest in history, people with disabilities continue to face obstacles to employment.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities residing in New York City fell to 14.7 percent by 2017, but it was far higher than for those without disabilities (6 percent). African-Americans (18.9 percent) and Hispanics (15.3 percent) with disabilities had higher unemployment rates than whites (14.3 percent) and Asians (13.4 percent). A larger share of individuals with disabilities were employed part-time (36 percent) compared to those without disabilities (27 percent). Workers with disabilities also earned 20 percent less.

Nationwide, half of all people with disabilities who were not working reported some type of barrier to employment, including lack of education or training, lack of transportation, the need for accommodations and the person's own disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For these and other reasons, there is a wide disparity between the labor force participation rates for people with and without disabilities.

DiNapoli’s report also found:

  • In 2017, 65 percent of people with disabilities in New York City between the ages of 18 and 64 were either unemployed or not actively seeking employment. The share rises to 79 percent for those age 16 and over.
  • Of the 259,400 working-age city residents with disabilities not in the labor force (i.e., unemployed and not actively seeking employment), nearly two-thirds had at least a high school diploma, with one-third having at least some college experience.
  • The median earnings for residents with disabilities was $32,000 in 2017, 20 percent less than those without disabilities.
  • Overall, 34 percent of working age residents with disabilities had incomes below the federal poverty level, more than twice the share for those without disabilities (14 percent).
  • The U.S. Census Bureau has begun to release data for 2018, which indicates that the number of people with disabilities with jobs declined in 2018 after increasing in the two prior years.

Comptroller DiNapoli has made disability inclusion a priority, working with other investors and advocates for individuals with disabilities, such as the American Association for People with Disabilities, to encourage companies to take stock of their own policies and take steps to ensure they offer a welcome workplace for all. The report contains links to city, state, federal and not for profit resources with more information on the issues it addresses.

Read the report, or go to:

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