Washington, D.C., Feb. 24 – As governors convene in Washington, D.C., for the 2017 National Governors Association Winter Meeting, Americans with disabilities are finding their economic outcomes vary greatly based on where they live. For example, 57.1 percent of working-age people with disabilities in Wyoming have jobs, while only 24.4 percent of people with disabilities in West Virginia are employed.
According to the newly released 2016 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, only 34.9 percent of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community nationally had a job in 2015, compared to 76.0 percent for people without disabilities. Out of almost 20 million working age people with disabilities, only 7.1 million people with disabilities have a job. Millions who would rather be working are living on government benefits instead.
However, looking at national statistics only tells part of the story facing millions of job seekers with disabilities who want to become independent and earn an income. Digging into the data compiled by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics (StatsRRTC) actually shows serious differences in employment outcomes at the state level. In fact, there are some states where people with disabilities are twice as likely to be employed as in other states.
Wyoming leads the nation with 57.1 percent of their citizens with disabilities employed. Wyoming is followed by the Dakotas where 51.7 percent of South Dakotans with disabilities have a job and 48.6 percent of North Dakotans with disabilities are employed. Other top 10 states include Nebraska with a 48.6 employment rate for people with disabilities, Minnesota (47.5), Iowa (46.3), Utah (45.8), Kansas (42.8), Alaska (42.6) and Wisconsin (41.2).
Minnesota under Gov. Mark Dayton, saw the biggest job gains for people with disabilities out of the top 10 states, with 12,652 Minnesotans with disabilities entering the workforce between 2014 and 2015.
Looking back at RespectAbility’s 2016 report on the best and worst states for workers with disabilities, Hawaii, Colorado and Nevada have since dropped out of the top 10 states. In fact, the number 10 spot has been claimed by Wisconsin, up from number 16 in 2016 and edging out Nevada by 0.1 percent.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker consistently has championed the issue of jobs for people with disabilities both in his past State of the State Addresses and in public appearances throughout the state. In particular, Walker consistently has worked hard to expand the number of highly successful Project Search sites in his state, providing youth with intellectual and development disabilities opportunities to successfully transition from school to work.
|Table 1 – Top 10 States for Workers with Disabilities|
|State Ranking||State||Total # of PwDs (Aged 18-64)||# of PwDs
|Total # Jobs Gained + or Lost –||Percentage of PwDs Employed|
|1||WY||37,643||21,508||+ 4,042||57.1 %|
|2||SD||51,131||26,419||+ 339||51.7 %|
|3||ND||38,112||18,582||– 414||48.8 %|
|4||NE||101,734||49,485||+ 2,194||48.6 %|
|5||MN||297,630||141,257||+ 12,652||47.5 %|
|6||IA||180,139||83,391||+ 1,280||46.3 %|
|7||UT||155,508||71,185||+ 6,085||45.8 %|
|8||KS||184,791||79,132||+ 2,570||42.8 %|
|9||AK||47,039||19,951||+ 1,741||42.6 %|
|10||WI||351,787||144,815||+ 4,327||41.2 %|