Idaho’s population of people with a disability is estimated at 14.1% or 269,585, based on the 2022 American Community Survey released recently by the U.S. Census.
The number of Idahoans with disabilities who are of working age is estimated at 140,752 — a 12.5% share of the state’s total population — with an estimated 6.4% unemployment rate. This group has close to a 50% labor force participation rate, which means they are working or actively seeking work.
The unemployment rate for Idahoans with disabilities is double that of the state’s population in general, 3.1% for September 2023, while the current participation rate for Idaho’s workforce overall is 62%. This data provides important insight into a group of people seeking employment opportunities. In many cases, a reasonable accommodation by an employer to hire a worker with a disability can be minimal in cost and in other cases accommodation is not necessary at all, depending on the job duties.
When provided with the proper accommodation, people with disabilities can also help employers address Idaho’s current labor shortage due to the baby boomer generation aging out of the workforce. Some older workers are even exiting earlier than the Medicare retirement age of 65. The share of people with a disability who are also employed is low compared with the working population without a disability. The U.S. Census breaks out the types of disabilities into these categories:
- Ambulatory difficulty
- Cognitive difficulty
- Hearing difficulty
- Independent living difficulty
- Self-care difficulty
- Vision difficulty
- Number of disabilities
Idaho’s labor market — employees and jobs seekers —shifted with the onset of COVID 19, moving from being employer driven to a hiring environment more responsive to the needs and demands of the employee.
Companies with high turnover rates or operating in a seasonal industry found themselves seeking workers among groups normally overlooked for a variety of reasons. Examples include teens, senior citizens, former felons and people speaking English as a second language. People with disabilities who need accommodation to carry out their job duties is another example.
This year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October was “Advancing Access and Equity: Then, Now and Next.” It marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination and addresses access and equity for people with disabilities.
For more information about disability awareness visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy website.
Jan.Roeser@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 735-2500 ext. 3639
This article is 100% funded by the U.S. Department of Labor as part of an Employment and Training Administration award totaling $695,785.