nTIDE April 2021 COVID Update: Declines in furloughs may be early signs of recovery

IMAGE: This graphic compares the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with and without disabilities, capturing pre-pandemic and current unemployment data for January 2020 to April 2021.
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Credit: Kessler Foundation

East Hanover, NJ. May 21, 2021. The number of workers on furlough declined in March and April, according to today’s National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE) COVID Update. For people with and without disabilities, temporary layoffs dropped to their lowest numbers since the impact of the pandemic in April 2020.

This mid-month nTIDE follows two key unemployment indicators – furloughs, or temporary layoffs, and the number of people looking for work, comparing trends for people with and without disabilities. The recovery pattern differs markedly from that of the Great Recession when the economic downturn separated workers from their employers. The COVID-19 pandemic precipitated an unprecedented rise in furloughs and people looking for work, prompting the addition of this mid-month nTIDE COVID Update.

The consecutive monthly declines are a positive sign, according to economist Andrew Houtenville, PhD, research director of the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, and co-author of nTIDE. “This may be an early sign of recovery,” he commented. “As COVID infections decrease and economic activity increases, people are trickling back to work.”

“Since last fall, we haven’t seen much fluctuation in the percentage of people looking for work,” noted Dr. Houtenville, “which may indicate that the labor market is tougher on people who have not stayed in touch with their employers.”

While these data are encouraging, Dr. Houtenville advises caution, pointing to the graphics for the April 2021 Unemployment Trends. “The huge spikes in unemployment in April 2020 are resolving slowly and have a long way to go to reach pre-pandemic levels,” he added, “and a lot of people are looking for work. The signs of chronic unemployment remain a concern.”


Each nTIDE release is followed by an nTIDE Lunch & Learn webinar at noon Eastern, featuring analyses by Drs. Houtenville and O’Neill and invited guests from the disability community. Register for next month’s nTIDE webinars: June 4, 2021 nTIDE Jobs Report, and our June 18, 2021 COVID Update at https://researchondisability.org/home/ntide

This COVID Update is an extra edition of National Trends in Disability Employment (nTIDE), a joint project of Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, co-authored by Dr. Houtenville and John O’Neill, PhD, of Kessler Foundation. The nTIDE team closely monitors the job numbers, issuing semi-monthly nTIDE reports, as the labor market continues to reflect the many challenges of the pandemic.

Funding: Kessler Foundation and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) (90RT5037)

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility, and long-term outcomes — including employment — for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org.

About the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire

The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was established in 1987 to provide a coherent university-based focus for the improvement of knowledge, policies, and practices related to the lives of persons with disabilities and their families. For information on the NIDILRR-funded Employment Policy and Measurement Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, visit ResearchonDisability.org.

Interested in trends on disability employment? Contact Carolann Murphy to arrange an interview with our experts: [email protected]

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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