I’ll Just Crush the Stupid Stuff in the Social Media about Disability Claims. In Reality, Claims Dropped to 20-Year Low while People with a Disability Are Employed in Record Numbers  

This is a big benefit to the US economy on many levels.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Look, I’m going to use some technical terms for a moment. I’m just a one-man show. I can’t lean against the tsunami of stupid BS washing over the internet. But this stuff got to me. So, there’s this stupid BS washing over the internet that disability claims have been spiking and that these spiking disability claims somehow hide the true nature of unemployment, or whatever. So I’m going to crush that with data: People with a disability are working in record numbers, while disability claims have dropped to a 20-year low, and people receiving disability benefits per 1,000 insured workers have dropped to a 40-year low.

The acceptance in Corporate America of working from home on a scale never seen before and the tight labor market over the past few years has been hugely beneficial for people with a disability who now no longer need to struggle with arduous or impossible commutes, and who may have special medical needs that are easier to attend to at home.

The number of people “with a disability” who were working in July jumped to 7.76 million, the highest in the data going back to 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday as part of its employment report. This was up by 2.0 million, or by 35%, from just before the pandemic in January 2020!

The number of people with a disability in the labor force – either looking for work or working – spiked by 34%, or by 2.1 million people, since January 2020, to a record 8.3 million! Their number started rising in early 2021 amid the new flexibility by employers about working from home and a historic demand for labor and labor shortages.

These are huge gains that people with a disability have made in the labor market. Having these additional 2.1 million people in the labor force, who weren’t there in January 2020, is a big benefit for the US economy on all kinds of levels.

…while disability claims dropped to a two-decade low.

The number of people who applied for disability benefits in the calendar year 2022 dropped to 1.79 million, the lowest since 2002, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the Disability Program. Note how the long drop since 2009 is now flattening out. Obviously, it’s not going to zero.

This plunge of 39% since 2010 occurred even as the total US population has increased by 16%!

On a quarterly basis through Q2 2023, disability claims have flattened out at very low levels. We see this in the annual chart above. This data is volatile with big swings from quarter to quarter:

Disability awards – people actually getting approved for disability benefits – dropped to 543,400 in the calendar year 2022, the lowest in over 30 years, despite 30 years of population growth, and down by roughly half since 2010:

Disability awards in relationship to insured workers has plunged to 3.4 disability awards per 1,000 insured workers, a 40 years low. Only 1982 was lower, in the data that goes back to 1981:

The number of Disability Beneficiaries dropped to 15-year low.

At the end of calendar year 2022, the total number of people being paid disability benefits dropped to 7.60 million, the lowest since 2008. So far this year, the number dropped further to 7.52 million in June (green).

Sure, there are complaints that the disability system is hard to use, that it’s hard to get approved, that there are many bizarre rules and pitfalls, that the whole process takes forever, and that if someone finally gets approved, the amounts are small. These are policy issues, and it’s not my purpose here to weigh in on them. I just wanted to go out and crush some stupid stuff on the internet while showing an important aspect of the US economy.

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  124 comments for “I’ll Just Crush the Stupid Stuff in the Social Media about Disability Claims. In Reality, Claims Dropped to 20-Year Low while People with a Disability Are Employed in Record Numbers  

  1. Carlos says:

    Amazing that, even during a time when the disabled are successfully working more than ever before, employers still apparently can’t find enough workers.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      One of the best things about this labor market and WFH is that people with a disability are able to find work in large numbers. This is the kind of econ stuff that warms my heart.

      • Dick says:

        Something smells here. Work from home generally was due to the job not necessarily requiring a physical ‘work place/office’. This would have nothing to do with whether someone is disabled or not. The job is the job. I see WFH as detachable skills from a physical work place. Detachable skills are what determine WFH. Whether someone is disabled or not is immaterial. One must ask themselves, what job can a disabled person do now that they were not doing before. Skills are skills and and jobs are jobs. Something smells here.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          ” Something smells here.”

          Yes, you. That’s the problem. To give you just one example: call centers. They went from big specialized office to WFH. There are a gazillion other examples. Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

        • Paul says:

          I see the data suggesting that discrimination is real. There are many different kinds of disability so it’s hard to generalize, but take wheelchair users. If you interviewed someone on Zoom, you’d never even know they use a wheelchair. With an in person interview, you’d know immediately. May not matter at all for job performance, but first impressions count.

        • Einhal says:

          Are you being intentionally obtuse? Let’s take a place like New York City. There are tons of professional jobs there.

          Having lived there for several years, I can tell you that the subway system for disabled people SUCKS. Many of the stations don’t have elevators, and those that do often have them out of service. So a commute that takes 40 minutes for a non-disabled person can take two hours by the time you deal with buses and other “workarounds.”

          Those people can now work jobs for which they’re intellectually qualified without worrying about a commute that is really tolling on their health and safety.

        • pstuartb says:

          I have a few business partners who have become partially disabled in recent months, but who are still working at least part time. The only reason they can continue to work part time is because they are working from home. If they were required to commute into the office and stay there throughout the day, they just wouldn’t be able to do it, and we’d lose their contributions entirely.

          This article confirms my personal experience, and quantifies the issue nicely. WFH can be a huge positive for people who find themselves partially disabled.

      • James says:

        How much of this is due to a change in people’s perception of disability? Over my lifetime there has been a dramatic increase in the diagnosis of all types of disabilities, especially non-physical. Rules for making accommodation for disabled workers have also changes, so it’s safer to claim a legit problem. I realize the BLM stats do not relate to claims, but they may have dropped also. Years ago I worked WC fraud cases. Lots of people got injured, recovered, went back to work, and then were totally disabled after meeting Dr X. CA put on some reasonable limits. You could pick your own doc, but you had to do it before your injury, it had to be a doc you were normally seeing, and the doc had to agree in writing. Lots of fraud mills stopped overnight.

      • CCCB says:

        Totally agree with your frustration.

        Every time you write an article about a business or other subject I know well, I want to call bullshit on 90% of the moronic or ignorant comments that follow.

        Opinions are fine, but most folks just repeat hearsay and internet crap as if it were the gospel truth without ever engaging their brains or doing even the most basic research which would totally disprove their comments. The saddest part is they actually believe their own hot air.

        I’m actually happy when you call me out on my errors. We should all raise the quality of our comments here so we aren’t wasting our time reading junk

    • Who Cares says:

      The problem at the moment is that the US is in a total employment situation.
      The percentage of people not having work are basically split between the people that are switching to a new job and are temporarily unemployed and the bigger fraction of people with not the right job skills as asked by the market (and unless it is an no experience required job it can take years to retrain people).

      People with a disability have an additional problem. It generally takes some effort and a (slight) reduction in efficiency to employ them (Which is why they tend to have less chance at getting a job even with anti-discrimination laws in non total employment situations). This problem increases the further the pool of disabled people looking for work gets tapped for work. Just from looking at the numbers Wolf provided the US is starting to reach the point where the people with disabilities wanting to work start to require a dedicated support infrastructure to stay working.

    • Steve says:

      imho this says more about people unable to survive from inflation. Even the crippled and maimed now have to get a second income. Luckily they can which is glad That they have to? sad.

  2. Contrarion says:

    I see the charts. I believe I’m more concerned with the labor participation pool. I believe it’s at an all time low. When you factor in people on disability, people who are no longer counted, seniors, people working gigs, non employees, etc. I believe this to be the case.

    People getting approved presently or recently may have dropped but that doesn’t discount the large numbers of people who are on disability.

    I do commend those who wish and desire and do work part time while on disability.
    On the other hand some or many receive disability who can surely work. Those are the type that played the system so to speak and don’t even have any or ambition to work.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “I believe I’m more concerned with the labor participation pool. I believe it’s at an all time low.”


      It was your repeated BS a year ago about people with disabilities that caused me to start to cover this topic back then because I got tired of having to deal with your BS in the comments.

      So now you’ve come up with some more BS, and so I hafta post another chart in the comments to crush your BS all over again.

      The labor participation rate of people with a disability hit an ALL TIME HIGH of 24.6% of the population with disabilities — not an “all time low,” LOL. Your BS is just astounding.

    • Digger Dave says:

      You clearly don’t speak from experience. If someone meets the SSDI standards and navigates the system to actually get benefits, there’s a good reason that they’re not working much (or at all). I was itching to point out the difficulty of actual disabled people, many of whom have mental illness (which we know is handled so well in the US), primary or secondary mental issues (learning and processing among many others) making it through the Byzantine processes (payments from SSDI, health insurance through the states, housing through a combination of state/federal programs, never mind having to navigate our awful for-profit health system with marginally acceptable and indecipherable coverage, but then I read Wolf’s last paragraph.

      The people that pass the test usually have strong willed advocates, public or private (family), especially if they are mentally ill (which is much harder to qualify based on than any other type of disability). When people finally successfully receive payments from this system they are meager and dehumanizing. They’re forced to rely on other forms of public/private charity (food assistance, awful public transportation in most locations, heating/energy assistance through multiple places to name a few) just to survive. If they get married, the scant benefits they receive can be ended harshly even if the spouse is just scraping by. They’re subject to periodic arbitrary reviews to prove they’re still disabled (as if it goes away) and a missed appointment with a social worker or doctor, or even a missed letter can result in the rug being pulled out from under them. If they go attempt to scrape up some of their dignity and take a part time or trial (usually low paying) job, they quickly can lose their benefits again.

      Sorry, but this is a system set up by a duopoly partnership to punish actual disabled persons. Have you seen the level of social breakdown, homelessness, public mental illness, mass gun violence (often by someone visibly mentally ill with no support)?

      If someone has gotten SSDI benefits, they most certainly earned it. Often they work harder just to stay in the system so they can continue to just survive than many high-earning middle class know-nothings who have been fortunate to live in a place and time that puts just showing up as the number one priority.

      This stupid type of generalization and scapegoating disability receipiants and these common (but wrong) beliefs is why the system is so poorly designed. No one is playing the system.

      • Todd says:

        What specific experience do you have?

        • Digger Dave says:

          Enough familiarity with it to accurately describe it. Have had family members and tenants that have dealt with this system for years. This nonsense about people milking disability does not really exist except in people’s minds with a very specific agenda that scapegoats the disabled as some kind of undeserving drain on the public. Anyone that talks like this is proving themselves to have no first hand experience with this system.

      • VintageVNvet says:

        Good Summary DD: Been there and done that, and to be honest, Gave Up on the whole system after being rejected couple times…
        Then came the best or worst challenges:
        Trying to overcome the very harsh prejudices against handicapped, now known as disabled…
        When I could show that I could do the work as well as needed, things began to improve,,, and then got better due to wonderful folks who, in the later 3 decades of last century, could see the benefits of hiring me…
        ”HANG IN there brothers and sisters, and keep on keeping on”

      • Massbytes says:

        @Digger Dave I can testify to at least part of your post regarding real disabled people, such as my non-verbal autistic son, who has been that way since birth having to deal with governments that seem to be be determined to make him and his guardians jump through hoops just to maintain benefits. It is frustrating, unnecessary and should be illegal for the governments administering these benefits to act in such a manner.

      • AT says:

        Totally agree with Digger Dave. My mom worked her whole life as a teacher and school administrator. When she had serious health problems for a few years in her 40s, the hell she went through in dealing with the Social Security Disability administration practically exceeded the hell from her health problems. It’s like the entire system is designed for the fraudulent claims to fly through and the productive middle-class person who works and pays taxes their whole life to be blocked at ever turn when they need it.

        To add insult to injury, about a year after paying meagre claims for 18 months, SSD decided they had overpaid her and tried to claw back some of the money (we are talking about them paying her something like $18k and deciding she only deserved $14k). My parents paid the money back and then the IRS went after her for failing to pay taxes on the SSD overage that she had returned…and that wasted another few months of her life.

    • JimL says:

      Please get better sources of information. The ones you currently use are taking advantage of your lack of knowledge.

      Just sayin….

    • Kurtismayfield says:

      “I believe I’m more concerned with the labor participation pool. I believe it’s at an all time low. ”

      It was lower in the 1950’s-1970’s, I am sure no one was concerned.

      Meanwhile the U6 is at or near historical lows, and the 25-54 rate is at historical highs.

  3. monkee says:

    There’s two arguments about this:

    One is going to say, “it’s so expensive to live that it has forced disabled folks into work to survive.” Which takes agency away from the disabled cause, generally speaking, people want to work in some capacity. Not many actually want to just idle.

    The other is that, work from home opportunities have been a HUGE benefit to people who would have otherwise had to live on disability, which isn’t exactly a life of luxury.

    • HM says:

      Well sorted Mr Wolf. A blend of knowledge, common sense and keen observation, all supported by employment figures … present and past. Well said indeed.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        …and, as is well-known by habitues of this, Wolf’s most-excellent establishment, usually harshing someone’s dearly-held buzz…

        may we all find a better day.

    • Apple says:

      It’s a bigger benefit to employers having those extra 2.1 million employees in the workforce.

      Imagine how much wages would have to go up to attract enough workers with a potential pool short 2.1 million workers.

  4. VintageVNvet says:

    Thanks again for your data and fact based reporting Wolf.
    As a person with disabilities and having hired disabled folks in the past, folks FKA ”HandiCapped” , I am glad to see this vast improvement in the hiring levels for disabled folks.
    My experience as an employer was that disabled folks made excellent workers who just might have been a bit more appreciative of having a job and independent income.
    I hope these levels continue, to the benefit of everyone.

  5. Bj says:

    “When you reach your full retirement age, your disability benefits will switch to Social Security retirement benefits, and the amount remains the same,” source SSA website. Thus, as the boomer generation reaches retirement age, there will be a drop in disability. If your analysis didn’t control for age, then your analysis is meaningless.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      This is the stupidest comment of the day. Generations don’t move in two years, but in decades. The spike took place in two years. Duh.

      And the boomers aren’t in a vacuum. Generations are a flow, and there are always people coming in behind, and there are always people retiring, and there are always people with disabilities. The millennials are the biggest generation ever, and some of them have disabilities.

    • Einhal says:

      Did you stop to consider that, as (for example), 61 year olds on disability transition to 62 on normal SS benefits, that a working 42 year old becomes permanently disabled and enrolls in SS disability? Why does your analysis assume that people are only leaving disability, and not joining it?

      • Apple says:

        You may be eligible for SSI ( Supplemental Security Income ) benefits at full retirement age if you are disabled.

  6. Alan Bachers says:

    Untallied and varyingly disabled cohort of Long Covid sufferers are the “disabled without a category” almost universally rejected by disability systems not yet adjusted to accommodate the truly disabling effects. A crisis for sufferers numbering in the millions, they are well described in this article:


  7. taxpayer says:

    So during ~2013-2023 the number of disability beneficiaries dropped by ~1.5 million. During approximately the same time, number of disabled in the labor force grew by ~2.2 million. Of course the definition of “disabled” between beneficiaries and labor force probably differ, but it seems that there are more disabled folks in the US now than ten years ago. Of course there are more people, and the average age is higher, so that would explain at least part of it.

    • fullbellyemptymind says:

      Taxpayer – I don’t have data to support this contention, but I might work to dig some up if the notion has any traction, but…

      Speaking anecdotally, a substantial cohort of my eastern KY kinfolk subsisted on disability for a variety of ills (real and perceived) for much of the time period you note. Despite these disabilities many were able to maintain dedicated opiate habits. As Oxy transitioned to old school heroin, then to raw fentanyl, then benzo/tranq adulterated fent this cohort has died off en-masse and have (generally) not been replaced by their numerous children/grandchildren.

      That may explain away some of the 1.5MM, at least in Carter County KY…

  8. Beg4mercy says:

    Work from home is a pretty solid trend, which is likely to impact commercial real estate and city revenues.

    Random thing:

    “ If remote work persists at current levels or rises in the years ahead as Bloom expects, it will be due in part to Americans’ desire for flexible working arrangements. But there are plenty of reasons for businesses to be fans of fully remote or hybrid models as well, Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School and remote work expert, told Insider.

    “When you allow flexibility, it expands your talent pool,” he said. “The reason I think this model will stick and become the equilibrium is every company is fighting for that same talent pool, and flexibility allows companies to attract and retain talent.”

    • Apple says:

      WFH was not something invented in 2020.

      I remember the story of David Solomon CEO ( and DJ ) of Goldman becoming angry after running into an employee at lunch in the Hampton’s during the pandemic.

      This lead him to demand employees return to the office.

      CEO’s are an emotional bunch.

      • Dick says:

        I would suspect you have not dealt with CEOs 1 on 1. They are cold calculating strategists who’ve slit may a throat to get where they are.

        • rojogrande says:

          I think Apple was making a joke. Humor is probably lost on cold calculating strategists hyper-focused on slitting someone’s throat for personal financial gain.

        • BeingChad says:

          You forgot to add some Nietzsche about killing and being not stronger. Or was it not killing and being stronger. Totally Chad, bru.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          Chad – might have been ol’ Fred’s falling into madness after looking too-long at a clock…

          may we all find a better day.

      • JimL says:

        WFH may not have been invented in 2020, but infrastructure and company culture made significant changes in 2020 to adapt to it. Before 2020, barely anyone had heard of Zoom. Before 2020 it was strange at most companies to have a meeting where 80% of the attendees were in the room and a few were remote.

        Now it is normal.

        The pandemic forced infrastructure changes on companies and forced culture changes as well.

        • VintageVNvet says:

          Not so JL:
          Clients I worked for starting waay back in the early ”oughts” had full on meetings of local staff in the room and many others spread around USA, sometimes even in EU or Asia.
          There were basic abilities to connect shared audio and basic spreadsheets by early 2000s, and those connections continued to improve to the point that we were dealing with video as well as audio connections frequently, maybe majority of time by 2015.
          Last client had design professionals connected on ”Go To Meeting” and other software all over USA and Australia and EU all at the same time watching, live, one of the engineers make changes to his drawings while we commented on cost implications, conflicts with, for example, the needs of the plumbing drains locations superseding the HVAC, etc., live, and it appeared to me to save a ton of time for all concerned…

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          VVNV – well said. Post-to-cabling/telegraph, to telephone/radio, to television/mainframe-to-satellite/PC-to smartphone, etc. As Wolf elegantly pointed out, above, like the general flow/evolution of generations, the results of technological revolution flow on and from the hands of the few to the many…

          may we all find a better day.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          …of course, I’ve heard that flow of technology termed as equipping monkeys with machine guns (…and likely being unkind to monkeys, here…).

          may we all find a better day.

        • JimL says:

          Perhaps you didn’t read the part where I said “strange at most companies”. Note the word most. Also, as I noted WFH existed well before 2020 (i had a job where i worked from home 75% of my time in 2005), but the pandemic took it to a whole other level and it became much more acceptable.

  9. Shanna says:

    Many of us must work part time just to pay rent & necessities. Povery my friends.

  10. Marty says:

    The internet was mainly talking about a graph that you didn’t show:

    St Louis Fed
    Population – With a Disability, 16 Years and over (LNU00074597)

    This shows a large recent spike in disability in the total population, working or not. It would appear that a large number of people became disabled, but continued to work.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Thank you for illustrating my point that the internet and its clickbaited denizens are stupid.

      The population with a disability includes the people who are working. DUH. The population with a disability goes up with the population overall, and over the years with the larger number of older people.

      So here is the population with a disability:

      And here is the record portion of that population with a disability who is in the labor force — either working or looking for work:

      • Todd says:

        But it does make one wonder.

        People with disabilities over 16 – total population (working or not) was flat around 30 million from 2015 to 2020. Then there was a 3 million spike from 2020 to 2023.

        What caused this? Were these physical issues? mental? All attributable to COVID? The shutdown?

        • Zard says:

          Long-term COVID, definitely.
          The thing is US pop (> 16) is probably about 300M.
          1/10 have disability. That is a lot! Pretty much all the people (< 50) I know are not "disable".

          I am seeing a few "able" people driving around with "disable" blue parking sticker around me.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          But 2 million of that 3 million increase are working: the number of people with a disability who are employed spiked by 2 million during the same period.

        • I Can't Do That Dave says:

          Zard, just because you can’t see a person’s disability, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. What if they have an ailment that causes problems intermittently? For instance, does someone with a neurologic disorder that causes seizures have to be in seizure all the time to satisfy your definition of disabled? Or someone who can’t walk more than a short distance at one time. They’re fine at first but prone to collapse beyond that point from extreme pain or fatigue. They may have arthritis or heart conditions or lung disease that you may not “see.” Not everyone has to be in a wheelchair or use a walker to qualify.

        • The Brookings Institute did a study that revealed a minimum of 2-million people have left the workforce longterm due to long Covid. They said the more likely number was around 4-million but because the government does not have (at least at that time) and disability qualification for long-Covid, there was no easy way to assess the numbers. So, they extrapolated them based on a variety of inputs and surveys.

          These are not counted at all as disabled and are not counted at all as unemployed because they do not qualify for unemployment benefits, since the government simply regards them as quitters — as people who dropped out of the workforce unexplained.

          With such a disabled workforce that is not officially disabled, it is no wonder unemployment rolls refuse to rise. The tightness in the labor force is on the supply end, so you have to dry up a lot of jobs before you see unemployment start to rise at all because there are far too few workers, thanks in fair part to long Covid (or vaccine damage, who knows which it is?) wiping people out of the labor force.

  11. TBP says:

    “2nd generation” not “2nd generating”

  12. Ed C says:

    The only ‘disability’ that is still scorned and very much avoided is old age. Unless things have changed radically in this brave new employment world age discrimination is still very much a thing. It relates to the high cost of medical care and insurance which, in our system, companies are saddled with.

  13. MattF says:

    How does VA disabled figure in this? There are 4.9 million of them as of 8/2022. I know many of them and their disabilities are often “disabilities” and they just draw an extra check. In these cases, it’s not a matter of the workplace becoming more accommodating but of the government paying disability money to people who have no problem working.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      VA disability claims and benefits are not included here. The VA has its own disability system for veterans, and they’re paid out of that system, and not by the SSA, so they’re not part of the data here of the SSA’s disability claims and benefits.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      MattF – suggest you step up and (with some verifiable proof) report the fraudsters you know to the VA, as any good citizen should. I guaranty there’ll be action…

      may we all find a better day.

  14. Bond Vigilante Wannabe says:


    This is an excellent article on an extremely important topic.

    It also helps highlight how we actually had something positive come out of this pandemic financial fiasco.

    People with disabilities have been excluded from the labor force to a significant degree, and this underutilized talent is now finding a home.

    Many (myself included) can get too sucked into the doom and gloom of the financial mess the country has gotten itself into, and lose sight of some of the very positive developments.

    Very well done.

    • JeffD says:

      Wolf has been one of the most bullish, positive commentators on the economy for almost a year now. The “Main street” real world economic activity is really jumping, and Wolf is great at telling that story. Unfortunaely, the financial markets do not like his stories because the stories aren’t cheerleading a quick call for rate cuts and free money.

  15. andy says:

    Is the stupidest comment of the day taken? Can I submit Nasdaq is going to crash inside six weeks?

    • The Real Tony says:

      More than likely Wolfstreet is right about the base year effect which will flip-flop upwards in an uptrend starting this September on the year over year inflation numbers. That certainty won’t help the NASDAQ at all.

    • The Real Tony says:

      I’d be watching for profit taking on the NASDAQ at the very end of August. It would be rare for no profit taking on the NASDAQ at the end of this month if its going to crash on the inflation data from August that’s reported in September.

    • crazytown says:

      Energy prices will be back to choking out growth and fueling inflation.

      Where I am, a lot of people chatting about high bills following recent electricity rate increases, plus gas has gone up 50 cents in 3 weeks. On top of that, student loan repayments start next month. That’s a decent amount of consumer funds being redirected.

      IMO, XOM and CVX are some of the most undervalued large caps.

  16. BuySome says:

    SSA deals with SS Disability recipients. VA handles military disability cases, something in the 5 to 8 million range (depending on which blah blah reports it). Is BLS reporting a mix of both numbers?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The BLS — which reports on “people with a disability” — doesn’t report disability claims and benefits at all. That’s what a lot of people don’t get. They misunderstand what the BLS reports.

      To get disability claims data, you need to go to the SSA.

      The BLS tracks the population and whether or not they’re working via its jobs surveys that are done monthly by the Census Bureau.

      The BLS data on “people with a disability” is NOT based on disability claims data, but on what people that receive the jobs survey report on the jobs survey where they report if they have a disability, and whether or not they’re working.

  17. Vlad Muzzi says:

    Search for “ Population – With a Disability, 16 Years and over”.

    How do you reconcile those numbers with the data from this article?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “Population with a disability” that is working is what this article is about.

      “Population with a disability” by the BLS has ZERO to do with “disability claims” — you have to go to the SSA to get that data, and my article shows that data.

      “Population with a disability” includes the people who are working, just like “Population of the US” includes the people who are working. Both have been going up, LOL. Population growth.

      Since you don’t want to read anything, I will just repost what I already posted: first chart is the “population with a disability” and the second chart is the labor force participation rate of the population with a disability:

      The population with a disability includes the people who are working. DUH. The population with a disability goes up with the population overall, and over the years with the larger number of older people.

      So here is the population with a disability:

      And here is the record portion of that “population with a disability” that is in the labor force — either working or looking for work:

      • Vlad Muzzi says:

        Wolf, the population did not increase at the rate the number of disabled people did, in the last 2-3 years. Or do you have data that shows it did?

        As for the disabled in the workforce, one possibility is that a large number of people became disabled while working and then continued to work, without filing for disability. Perhaps hoping that this is a temporary condition.

        • MooMoo says:

          ….or more people became disabled for some strange reason (wonder what that could be)

  18. bblontrock says:

    Numbers in Europe are very different, here we have choice between unemployment and disability, with the latter not being temporary and without conditions and both with pretty much the same remuneration. So lots of people not wanting to work chose for disability (often ‘mental’ problems or pain, things that can’t be proven they are not real).

    • Jiml says:

      Do you have legitimate sources showing that the numbers in Europe are different? I would bet against it.

  19. Brooks says:

    Does disabled and employed mean they are collecting a disability check and are also working?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      No, it doesn’t mean that at all.

      The BLS — which reports on “people with a disability” — doesn’t report disability claims and benefits at all. That’s what a lot of people misunderstand.

      To get disability claims data, you need to go to the SSA. Which I did, and which is in the second half of the article.

      The BLS tracks the population and whether or not they’re working via its jobs surveys that are done monthly by the Census Bureau.

      The BLS data on “people with a disability” is NOT based on disability claims data, but on what people that receive the jobs survey report on the jobs survey where they report if they have a disability, and whether or not they’re working.

  20. JDavis says:

    I recently did some WFH marketing work on Upwork for a disability advocate. He was struggling to find clients. He mentioned that employers were more likely to offer a reasonable accommodation to employees now as well. I have seen things like stools for older workers to sit on at the grocery check out or at a hotel desk. Warms my heart as well.

    He also mentioned that wage vs disability check was a big factor in people’s decision to stay on disability. Wages are higher and disability is not livable in my town on the West Coast anyways.

  21. Petunia says:

    Within the past week I heard an internet expert on SS say disability claims are backlogged for years right now. Nobody is getting approved due to staffing shortages.

    This coincides with my experience with the system over 30 years ago. My employer required me to file for SS disability due to a workers comp claim. My SS application was rejected after 18 months. I didn’t know when I applied that every application gets rejected and then you need a lawyer to appeal the claim. I walked away from money I needed because I didn’t know how to play in their FU system. Stupid me thought, I pay for these benefits I should receive them when I need them. That is not how the system is set up to work.

    The SS, Workers Comp, and disability insurance system is a make work welfare system for lawyers and doctors. No lawyer, no benefits. Claimants need lawyers because doctors serve the insurance system that pays them, generally not patients.

    Side Note:
    I got rejected by SS and was forced to sell my house. It was purchased by my Chinese neighbor whose immigrant mother, who had never worked in the US, was on SSI while baby sitting her grandchildren.

    • Thomas Curtis says:

      It has long been my impression that getting a disability claim approved generally requires a disability lawyer who then takes a significant percentage of the claim.

      • Anthony A. says:

        Yes, two extended family members in their late 50’s and disabled that went thru the system to get the megar benefits. Took two years, two tries and the attorneys took one year of benefits as the fee. Almost criminal what the fee was for the actual “work” performed. Both family members had bad strokes and one is wheelchair bound and paralyzed. The other lost his left side motion and went blind in one eye. Strokes are terrible things.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “SS say disability claims are backlogged for years right now.”

      1. Not “for years.” That’s an exaggeration. But they’re ALWAYS backlogged.

      2. That’s why I gave you “claims” data not “approvals” data, which eliminates the issue of backlogs.

      • Craig says:

        I greatly respect your work Wolf. Never miss an article- ever.. Please have a look at ” Cause Unknown ” by Ed Dowd. Unless this guy is as full of stuff as a Christmas Goose, he makes some alarming claims on this topic as a Statistician by trade and X Wall St. analyst for Blackrock.

  22. dougzero says:

    As someone in a wheelchair, I am glad to see employment opportunites rising. WFH certainly helped a lot I suspect. Einhal mentioned commuting as an issue. Yes. And one can imagine how it is like, but until you sit in chair and stay there for a few days getting around, you will only get close to reality.

    • The Real Tony says:

      My father was a quadriplegic and had a motorized wheelchair. He somehow lived to age 92.

    • Einhal says:

      What gave me the lesson was walking with my son years ago when he was in a stroller, where you need ramps and elevators, because it was too difficult to carry it up a flight of stairs.

      It opened my eyes as to how people in wheelchairs have to navigate the world every day.

      • Z33 says:

        In grad we school, we were provided a lecture by several individuals that used wheelchairs. Afterwards, we were able to go around campus in extras they brought to see what it would be like to get around. A lot more planning has to go in getting around and knowing sidewalk ramps and doors you can open by pressing the ADA button (some were broke and you couldn’t even get in). Ever since that day I always notice places that don’t have doors that can be opened automatically or ramp access. Very frustrating to see the limited access people have to this day.

  23. JimL says:

    Wolf, thank you for being a ray of sunshine in a world of misinformation. The saddest part is that many people seek out misinformation. They do not want to be informed. They want to have their preconceived views validated, even if untrue.

    • Thomas Curtis says:


    • Craig Steele says:

      Absolutely right on! I, unfortunately, I tend to act that way also. Looking for articles to support my suppositions instead of variety on a subject.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Here’s the thing about rents: if you make $5k per month, and your pay goes up 20% over x-time, then you make $6k, and have $1k more to spend.

        If your rent is $2k, and it also goes up 20% over the same period, it goes up by $400, so it’ll eat $400 out of your $1,000 raise, and you get to spend the remaining $600 on other stuff. Landlords know this too, and they’ll price their units to take a bigger portion of any pay increases, and that’s why the Fed will have such a hard time putting a lid on rents as long as wages are surging.

  24. The Real Tony says:

    I saved the Canadian government a fortune by never filing for disability. That would have been 29 years ago.

  25. william says:

    Does the number of new disability claims reported by SSA only include SSA or private disability as well? I thought the big spike in claims was among the young and employed.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The spike in disability claims (SSA data) was before 2010. You can see that in chart #3.

      Chart #1 and #2 (BLS data) have zero to do with “disability claims,” but track people who are working or looking for work, who also have a disability — but it says nothing about disability benefits.

      The BLS — which reports on “people with a disability” — doesn’t report disability claims and benefits at all. That’s what a lot of people don’t get. They misunderstand what the BLS reports.

      To get disability claims data, you need to go to the SSA.

      The BLS tracks the population and whether or not they’re working via its jobs surveys that are done monthly by the Census Bureau.

      The BLS data on “people with a disability” is NOT based on disability claims data, but on what people that receive the jobs survey report on the jobs survey where they report if they have a disability, and whether or not they’re working.

  26. Alex Kalman says:

    Therefore, I am reading all your government numbers that pertain to the disabled and the one that caught my eye is that the disabled are now employed or looking for work. The US Government makes you work even if you are disabled. Disabled awards are down a remarkable 534,000 even though the population is larger and the workforce has increased over time. Most everyone are denied disability. Desperate for workers and money after the Pandemic killed off at least one million US workers and millions retired or are Long Covid? The illness is so new there is very little treatment and diagnosis? And the absence of further education during the Covid lock down, panic and distance rules? Many workers might not unqualified and are hired due to the labor shortage including disabled people? This is all Pandemic Related.(?)

  27. Shiloh1 says:

    WFH as a means to avoid potential disability.

    Acute lead poisoning in world-class city Chicago. None of the C-Suiters living on the North Shore take the Red Line. CWB Chicago site best reference. Second City Cop site is back. Hey Jack-ss. Do your own research and hang out at Millennium Park, The Magnificent Mile and the way-kewl neighborhoods by Wrigley Field. Helps to have the glazed suburban /out-of-town bumpkin look. For some reason the Rooftop events aren’t the hot ticket they one were and it can’t be because of the team, because the last 2 generations of Cubs fans are not known for their baseball smarts. Not saying going Sox Park is any better. My Dad would drive us there and to the museums as if he was a submarine captain tailed by destroyers, zig-zag zig-zag, back 40 years ago.

    • Burt Reynolds Wrap says:

      Chicago’s always been pretty wild. Tell me a decade when it wasn’t. Sounds like you know that.

  28. Bs ini says:

    Wow I had been in the SS disability rise camp seeing the BS (my initials coincidentally). Thanks for the enlightenment. I am learning everyday to question the AI and content produced and getting more difficult but the nice thing about this site is the facts are presented . Thanks again ! The nice thing about BS is my golf balls when found on a course are returned to me . (BS stamped)

  29. Mike says:

    I work for a large technology company in Silicon Valley. In my dept of 5o I know of 5 who are out on disability for stress or mental reasons. They remain employed, thus still count as the employed, but are out on disability. I am wondering how they are counted. Yes, they may still be technically employed, but they are not working or producing, and are a drag on the economy as opposed to a benefit to the economy.

  30. Ricko says:

    “So far this year, the number dropped further to 7.52 million in June (green).”

    So, expect 15 million for all of 2023?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      No. This is a level not a flow. The total number of people now getting paid disability is a level. The level in June was 7.52 million. By the end of the year it may be 7.51 million or 7.52 million or 7.53 million. It goes up when the number people who are newly approved to receive benefits minus the number of people who stop receiving benefits is positive. It goes down if this number is negative.

  31. Escierto says:

    Two items.

    First, anecdotally speaking, I am seeing many more people with disabilities working, not just WFH, but in supermarkets and restaurants etc.

    Second, can’t you just ban the repeat offenders who keep trying to trash your site with garbage?

  32. Not Sure says:

    “These are policy issues, and it’s not my purpose here to weigh in on them.”

    THIS is why I (and others) keep coming back to Wolf Street. It has become so rare to see the facts reported without some obvious agenda or spin applied in journalism these days. WS is often a needed breath of fresh air in an otherwise putrid news environment. Keep on keepin’ on Wolf!

    • Curiouscat says:

      I hope you also send him a few bucks once in a while. His clarity and insight is well worth the money.

  33. fred flintstone says:

    Debts be da……
    If a person has a medical issue or anything connected to the service……
    We ought to double those payments.
    The amount they receive is a bad joke.

  34. Occam says:

    Could the increase be caused by more current workers self identifying as having a disability?

    My employer, the USG, has pushed the self identification for the past five years. It only requires someone to say they are, no Dr. note.

    There is the option to add a Schedule A letter to your file, and this does require a statement.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The employer has nothing to do with this survey. This is based on the household survey by the BLS, not the establishment survey by the BLS. All household-survey questions are based on “self-identification”: working, not working, looking for a job, not looking for a job, changed jobs, have a disability, etc. The survey provides fairly clear guidelines on how to answer these questions. So in this regard, it’s the same as all other questions on the household survey. There is no encouragement to answer in any particular way.

  35. SoCalBeachDude says:

    The gargantuan asset bubble across all classes of assets is now starting to burst at the seams with consequences for the world economies now growing catastrophically in the US and around the world.

  36. Implicit says:

    People that are “disabled” often times use their
    physicsl snd mental chllenges to enable them to accomplish things that would not have hsppened if they were not challenged to begin with; many would like to br considered enabled due the extra perseverence and determination developed to become enabled. They do not want pity.
    in the future many more people will look opt for physically amped exoskeletons, prostheses, and brains that will make them motr hireable than
    “normal” people.

    • Auld Kodjer says:


    • Jos Oskam says:

      “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better…stronger…faster.”


  37. Debt-Free-Bubba says:

    Howdy Folks. Had a legally blind brother in law that supported a wife and child. His employer was subsidized for hiring him. Better all the way around, for sure…….

  38. Tomaso says:

    I must confess this article flipping between BLS and SSA was hard to follow. This is what I got. Please correct me.

    1. Between 2020 and 2023 we added 2m disabled working people. It’s unclear if they are formerly disabled who started to work, or formerly working who became disabled, but since the number of claims has been decreasing, it’s likely that the disabled and unemployed started working.

    2. Between 2020 and 2023 we also added 1m disabled and non working people. It’s unclear how many are receiving welfare, but at the same time the total number of claims has been decreasing, and that’s a puzzle.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “Between 2020 and 2023 we also added 1m disabled and non working people.”

      You’re referring to the unemployed within the labor force. They’re a flow. Newly unemployed people looking for a job and those looking for a job after not having had a job enter into unemployment ranks of the labor force; those that found a job switch from the unemployed portion of the labor force to the employed portion of the labor force. Others leave the labor force altogether (retirement, death, etc.). This in-flow and out-flow happens every month. So it’s not the same 1 million individuals that are the unemployed within the labor force in 2020-2023.

      • Tomaso says:

        Got it, thank you. This is how I summarize it.

        For the sake of argument, let’s assume that disability awards are flat, so the rest of the math is easy. This will mean that: (a) 2M people previously disabled found a job, (b) 1M people previously disabled lost their job. This outcome is good. Now going back to the assumption, disability awards have actually been going down, so the point that things are improving is even stronger.

  39. Jos Oskam says:

    When I was young, my parents ran a bicycle repair shop. One of the things my father did on the side was repair work for the neighboring center for people with a disability. Wheelchairs, adapted tricycles, that kind of stuff.

    The problem with this kind of vehicles is that they often cannot be reasonably moved except by driving them. Meaning, when the repairs were done, these things had to be driven back to the aforementioned center.

    So, I was recruited by dad to deliver electric wheelchairs, tricycles, adapted bikes and whatnot back to their owners. Which in most cases meant actually driving them. I got a lasting impression on what it means to move around having a disability. It forever changed my perspective.

    It would be nice if these people blov1ating about disabled people gaming the system could be forced to change places for a day. Get around in an a wheelchair, get around blindfolded, get around without the use of your arms… see how you like it.

    I love how Wolf uses straight data to demolish nonsense stories.

    • vecchio gatto veloce says:


      Two years ago, in June 2021, the US Para-Olymic Trials for bicycle time-trials was held near my home along the Mississippi. I ride these roads most every day.

      The day before the racing, a lot of the athletes were on the road training and getting to know the course. And I got to ride with some of them. I’ll admit, it brought a few tears to my eyes to be with them. Fast, dedicated and inspirational was the only way to describe each and every one of these riders.

      I felt honored to be able to share the road with these athletes, for a few miles, on that day.

    • First and Long says:

      Kudos to your parents using your work experience to teach you empathy, which seems to be in short supply these days.

  40. SnotFroth says:

    I was born with a crippled leg, three surgeries in at this point, and I’ve been working full time in IT since 2004 including carrying around 30 pound laser printers and Sony Trinitron 19″ monitors, when those were a thing. I could be part of the statistics, but am not.

  41. Herpderp says:

    Now I know to make stupid comments in on wolfstreet to get comprehensive debunking articles for my friends BS talking points

  42. Nemo300BLK says:

    An interesting peak that coincided with the housing crash era. Around that same time, I had a maid that cleaned my offices. While obese, she was physically able but mad because she kept getting denied disability. Now I see why, everyone else qualified back then.

    She has an adult son with some mild special needs issues with whom she wanted to sit on the couch each day and watch him play video games. I found a reason to get rid of her not too long after she told me this.

  43. Silver Dollar says:

    One of the most heartening articles that you have written in months. Thanks.

  44. Imposter says:

    Someone in the comments mentioned inflation as a possible factor on more disabled becoming employed. Perhaps the non employed disability benefits are just not keeping up with inflation as I can attest to, being a SS retirement recipient. While not disabled some kind of employment, WFH would be nice at my age, may be in my future too.

    Could inflation pressures, added to the WFH door opening, be part of the push for additional income?? A whole lot of moving parts in all this eh?

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