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Press Release

Cleveland Fed research: Take the recent increase in disabled and foreign-born workers with a grain of salt

The number of disabled and foreign-born workers in the labor force increased significantly since 2020, but those increases may not tell the full story about the supply of labor in the US, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

The number of workers with disabilities grew by about 2 million between October 2020 and October 2023, but most of that increase was driven by people already in the labor force switching their self-reported status to “disabled,” reflecting little increase in the labor supply, according to researchers Angela Guo and Pawel M. Krolikowski.

Likewise, the number of foreign-born workers grew by 4.3 million during that time, according to data from the Current Population Survey. However, estimates from the American Community Survey, which has a larger sample size and a higher response rate, suggest slower growth. Relatedly, the share of clicks from outside the United States on the job posting site Indeed plateaued in 2023 after rising steadily between 2020 and 2022.

“We conjecture that immigration will likely contribute more to labor supply in 2024 than it did before the pandemic, but less than in 2020-2023,” Guo and Krolikowski write.

Read the Economic Commentary: Disability, Immigration, and the Postpandemic Labor Supply

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Chuck Soder,, 216.672.2798