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FYI: Disability

Sunday, September 16, 2012
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Unemployment Rate for Disabled Hits Three-Year Low

The second quarter of 2012 found the average unemployment rate for people with disabilities at just under 13 percent, its lowest quarterly figure in more than three years, according to a study from Allsup, a Belleville, Ill.-based provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare-plan selection services.

This dip marks the first time that figure has dropped below 13 percent since the fourth quarter of 2008 -- the first full quarter the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracked unemployment figures for individuals with disabilities. These figures are based on non-seasonally adjusted data from the BLS. The agency reported that 42 percent of individuals unemployed in June 2012 had been jobless for 27 weeks or more, compared to 44 percent during June 2011.

The quarterly Allsup Disability Study: Income at Risk also found the number of applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits continuing to stabilize, with 731,817 applications during the second quarter of 2012.

That number marks a slight increase from 2012 quarter one applications (724,746), but signals a 4-percent drop from 2011 second-quarter applications. Nevertheless, second-quarter figures indicate that the unemployment rate among people with disabilities remains 65 percent higher than the rate for people with no disabilities.

Number of Federal Employees with Disabilities Increasing

Employees with disabilities represented 7 percent of the federal government's overall workforce in fiscal year 2011, and that number goes up to 11 percent when including veterans who are 30 percent or more disabled, according to a report from the Washington-based U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The report finds that people with disabilities represented nearly 8 percent of all new federal hires in 2011, and nearly 15 percent when accounting for veterans who are 30 percent or more disabled. Those percentages are the highest in 20 years, and the federal government now employs more than 200,000 people with disabilities, according to the OPM.

"People with disabilities are welcome in the federal family," according to John Berry, U.S. Office of Personnel Management director. "We need the talents and creativity of all people -- including people with disabilities -- to help do the work of the American people. We are doing anything possible to remove barriers to their employment, and the good news is that we're moving in the right direction, and you can see it in the numbers."

Walgreens Expands Disability Employment Efforts

Officials at Walgreens, the Deerfield, Ill.-based drug-retailing chain, say they plan to implement a training program designed to help people with disabilities land jobs in all of the company's U.S. retail stores.

The initiative is an expansion of a pilot program that began in Texas and currently operates at the company's New York and Connecticut stores, as well. Through the program, Walgreens partners with local disability service providers to identify and train prospective employees for jobs in retail environments.

Upon successful completion of the program, individuals can apply for work at Walgreens or other retailers that rely on a similar skill set. To date, at least 400 people with disabilities have participated in the training program, and 46 percent of these participants have subsequently been hired by Walgreens or other retailers, according to the company.

Walgreens plans to immediately expand its efforts to its stores in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin, with expectations for Walgreens locations in the rest of the country to be part of the program by the end of next year.

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In addition to the retail initiative, at least 10 percent of the workforce at each of Walgreens' 20 distribution centers if already comprised of people with disabilities. The company is looking to achieve a similar inclusion rate in its stores.

Poll: Most Companies Seek Disability Hires

A majority of companies are taking steps to recruit those with special needs, a recent poll finds.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of the 662 human resource professionals surveyed by the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management and the Cornell University ILR School Employment and Disability Institute, in Ithaca, N.Y., say their companies include disability in their diversity plans and train staff on how to interview individuals with various special needs.

In addition, 59 percent say their organizations require subcontractors and suppliers to adhere to disability nondiscrimination agreements. Fifty-eight percent of respondents indicate their companies train HR staff and supervisors on effectively interviewing job candidates with disabilities, and 57 percent say their firms have developed relationships with community organizations that promote the employment of people with disabilities. Additionally, 47 percent of the HR professionals polled said that organizations must "actively recruit people with disabilities," with 34 percent saying their companies have been "very effective" at creating explicit organizational goals related to the recruitment of disabled people.

The survey indicated that large, publicly traded companies are most likely to have policies and practices to urge hiring of those with disabilities. The organizations conducting the survey noted that, in addition to policies, having a senior management team committed to hiring those with special needs appeared to make a significant difference.

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