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“America’s Hidden Workforce Returns”

January 28, 2019

Wall Street Journal

America’s Hidden Workforce Returns

By Eric Morath

January 26, 2019

WYOMING, Mich.— Like many adults with disabilities, Nathan Mort has often struggled to find and hold a job. A conservation group once declined his attempt to volunteer. The 37-year-old West Michigan native, who has a high-functioning form of autism, ended up living with his parents and dependent on government payments.

His fortunes turned several years ago when a local food distributor, Gordon Food Service, found itself short of entry-level workers and developed an internship program for adults with disabilities. Mr. Mort was hired from the program permanently to track warranty claims for the company’s trucks and other equipment. That allowed him to stop collecting federal disability benefits and move into his own home.

Disabled workers finding jobs is putting the Social Security program on firmer ground. In 2015, the disability trust fund was nearing exhaustion. Congress ordered that a greater share of federal payroll tax revenue temporarily go to the trust fund to bolster it.

The tighter labor market is delivering opportunities to a broad swath of workers who were disproportionately affected by the last recession. Unemployment has fallen sharply for blacks, Latinos, younger workers and those without a college education. …

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