Employment of People with Disabilities in Skilled Trade Professions

How many people with disabilities are working in skilled trades?

Disabled people work in a wide variety of occupations and industries. For this data blog, we are spotlighting people with disabilities who work in skilled trade professions by taking a deep dive into national employment and occupation data on disabled people.

Skilled trade jobs require specialized training and involve a combination of rigorous physical and mental labor. These jobs are critical for maintaining everyday infrastructure and include the following major occupation groups:

  • Farming, fishing, forestry and extraction
  • Construction
  • Installation, Maintenance and Repair
  • Production
  • Transportation and Material Moving

The following figures use data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2017 through 2021. The industry codes are derived from the Standard Occupational Classification System, which is a federal statistical standard that is used to group workers into different occupations based on job titles. Note: For brevity, occupations in the categories of farming, fishing, forestry or extraction are labelled “Primary Sector” in the charts and tables, where primary sector refers to the acquisition of natural resources.


Around one-quarter of employed people with disabilities are working in skilled trades. Of disabled people working in skilled trade professions, the largest proportion are working in transportation. All five categories of trades have a higher proportion of workers with disabilities than non-trades occupations as a single category.

Numbers and Proportions of Disabled People Working in Trade vs. Non-Trade Professions

Where Disabled People Are Working Number Percent
In Trade Professions 2,387,832 25.1%
In Non-Trade Professions 7,132,000 74.9%
In All Professions 9,519,832 100%


Disability Prevalence among All Workers by Occupational Category:

Occupational Category Percent
Primary Sector 6.5%
Construction 5.9%
Repair/Installation/Maintenance 6.8%
Production 7.4%
Transportation% 7.8%
All Occupations Other Than Trades 5.8%


This is a pie chart titled "People with Disabilities Working in Skilled Trades, by Trade Category".
The pie chart shows that most disabled workers in the skilled trades are in transportation at 37%. The next most common trade category is production at 27%. The two next most common trade categories are construction at 19% and repair/installation/maintenance at 14%. The least  common trade category is the primary sector (farming, fishing, forestry and extraction) at 3%. 

Women tend to make up approximately one-fifth of disabled people ages 16 through 54 who are employed in trades.


Number of People with Disabilities Employed in Trades, by Age and Gender

Age Male Female Total Percent Female
16-24 157,397 45,362 202,759 22%
25-34 293,501 69,228 362,729 19%
35-44 286,124 71,512 357,636 20%
45-54 405,814 101,345 507,159 20%
55-64 524,551 110,888 635,439 17%
65-74 212,072 37,152 249,224 15%
75+ 62,311 10,575 72,886 15%


This is a bar graph titled "People with Disabilities Working in Skilled Trades by Age Category and Gender."
The bar chart shows data disaggregated by age and gender for disabled trade workers. Overall, the age group with the most men and women with disabilities who are working in skilled trades is ages 55-64. For each age category, men with disabilities outnumber women with disabilities working in skilled trades, but the overall proportion of disabled women working in skilled trades among people with disabilities ages 16-54 is approximately one-fifth. 

More than one-quarter of employed disabled people working in trades report having multiple disabilities. Of adults with disabilities working in trades who report only one disability, the most commonly reported disability is hearing difficulty.

This is a pie chart titled "Types of Disabilities Among Disabled People Working in Trades."
The pie chart shows proportions of different types of disabilities reported by disabled workers in trade professions. The largest section of the pie chart is disabled trade workers who report having multiple disabilities at 27%. The next largest portion of the pie chart is disabled trade workers that report having only a hearing-related disability at 25%. Ambulatory only and cognitive only are the two next most common disabilities with each at 16%. Vision only disabilities represent 13% of the pie chart and the remaining 4% includes dressing/bathing-only or errands-only disabilities. 

A detailed look at different subcategories of trade industries using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) shows that most disabled people working in trades are working in the industries of manufacturing, construction, trade (retail or wholesale) and transportation.

This is a tree chart titled "People with Disabilities in Trades, by NAICS Categories."
The tree chart above shows rectangular areas in different sizes that represent the proportions of disabled workers in various categories of skilled trades based upon the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). This categorization is slightly different from the Census system and has more detail on service-related trades such as hospitality. This chart shows that according to the NAICS categories, most people with disabilities working in trades are working in manufacturing, at 592,000 people, followed by all other services (leisure and hospitality, business, etc.) at 510,000, then construction (440,000), trade (405,000), transportation (309,000), other related services, e.g. repairs (136,000) and other goods - producing (132,000).

The 17% wage gap for disabled people compared to people without disabilities is smaller on average for trade professions than the 28% average wage gap for other occupations. Note: This figure does not control for part-time vs. full-time work or any other characteristics of workers, employers or jobs.

This is a bar graph titled "Mean Annual Wages by Disability Status and Occupational Category."
This is a bar chart showing the mean annual wages for different skilled trade profession categories, and the bars on the chart for each category compare the wages for disabled people vs. non-disabled people working in these categories. Overall, the wage gap between people with disabilities and people without disabilities in trade professions is smaller than the wage gap between these groups for people employed in non-trade professions.

David Rosenblum is a senior economist and Alexandra Ruth is a data scientist in the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.