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Some New Jersey disabled workers hope to re-enter workforce

A recent report found that the percentage of adults who are working in the labor force is disappointing. In fact, not since the recession of the early 1980s has labor participation in New Jersey and across the country been so low.

This news may surprise New Jersey readers, as a recent measure of the national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, which represents a four-year low. Low unemployment often signals a recovering economy, including job growth. In this case, however, economists believe that disabled workers might not have been included in the count, which can create a false sense of security in the economy.

Some commentators believe that the disability assistance programs, such as Social Security disability insurance, might discourage beneficiaries from ever attempting to return to the work force. Yet the amount of SSDI assistance that a disabled worker receives while he or she is unable to work is uncomfortably close to federal poverty levels. According to an official from the Social Security Administration, the average disability payment is about $1,065 per month. That's only $12,780 per year -- an amount that's barley above the 2013 federal poverty guidelines for a household size of one person.

A recent interview with one SSDI recipient also suggests that disability payments are not an alternative that many workers would choose, if they had a choice between their impairment or working. The 53-year-old man, who went on SSDI assistance because of herniated discs, said he would rather not be on disability, as it reminded him of welfare. That man recently learned of a job that he could perform with his condition, so it's possible that he might soon re-enter the workforce.

Source: finance.yahoo.com, "Workers Stuck in Disability Stunt Economic Recovery," Leslie Scism, April 7, 2013

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