The Employment Outlook for Workers with a Disability

by Christopher Rich

September 24, 2018

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 540,000 individuals in Oregon age 16 and over had some type of disability in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available). Nearly 24 percent were employed, just over 4 percent were unemployed, and the remaining 72 percent were not in the labor force. For individuals without a disability, the numbers were reversed; roughly 70 percent were in the labor force and 30 percent were not in the labor force.

Individuals with a disability accounted for roughly one-third of Oregonians age 16 and over who were not in the labor force. Those who were in the labor force accounted for 7.7 percent of the total labor force. Individuals with a disability accounted for 15.2 percent of the total unemployed and 7.0 percent of all actively employed workers.

Workers with a disability were employed in the same industries and occupations as workers without a disability. In many cases, the distribution of workers was relatively similar for both groups. Some industries and occupations, however, did have a higher or lower concentration of one group or the other. For instance, 2.8 percent of workers with a disability and 2.9 percent of workers without a disability were employed in wholesale trade, whereas 4.1 percent of workers with a disability and 3.3 percent of workers without a disability were employed in natural resources and mining. The following report highlights the employment outlook for industries and occupations with a relatively high concentration of workers with a disability.

The Brightest Outlook Is in the Private Sector

Census Bureau estimates show that roughly three-fourths of Oregon’s wage and salary workers with a disability were employed in privately owned firms in 2016. For workers with no disability, this was just a few percentage points higher. Workers with a disability represented 6.8 percent of the private sector’s total workforce, compared with 6.6 percent of the government sector’s workforce. In not-for-profit private firms, 8.0 percent of workers had a disability while in for-profit firms workers with a disability accounted for 6.6 percent of the workforce. Oregon’s private sector is projected to grow 13.0 percent from 2017 to 2027, which means the addition of more than 211,000 new jobs for the state. In terms of job growth and potential job openings, the most opportunity should come from the private sector.

Among local, state, and federal agencies, workers with a disability were most prevalent in the federal government. While the federal government had the smallest number of workers with a disability, it had the largest relative share, accounting for 9.1 percent of the total federal workforce in Oregon. Two federal hiring policies help boost this ratio nationally and likely boost the ratio in Oregon as well. The first policy involves a strategy to actively recruit and hire individuals with disabilities. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the chief human resources agency for the federal government, provides details about the federal disability employment policy on their website. The second policy involves a strategy to actively recruit and hire veterans. According to a recent OPM report, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch, veterans accounted for 31.1 percent of Executive Branch employees (nationally) in fiscal year 2016. Just over 40.0 percent of federally employed veterans had a disability. Information about the policy to hire veterans is available at FedsHireVets.gov. The outlook for federal government employment in Oregon, however, could dampen spirits about future prospects. Federal employment is projected to downsize 1.0 percent in Oregon by 2027. And, at 28,200 jobs in 2017, federal employment accounted for just 10.0 percent of Oregon’s total government employment and just 1.5 percent of total payroll employment.  

Although workers with a disability accounted for just 5.8 percent of local government’s workforce in Oregon, this sector accounted for the largest number of government workers with a disability. The small share of local government’s total workforce may be due to the types of jobs available in the sector and the difficulty that individuals with specific types of disabilities might have in meeting qualifications. For instance, there are a relatively high number of protective service and education jobs in local government, for which workers with a cognitive disability may have a difficult time qualifying. It’s estimated that roughly 37.0 percent of all workers in Oregon with a disability had a cognitive disability. In terms of sheer numbers though, local government still looks to offer the most opportunity in government employment. The sector is projected to grow 7.0 percent by 2027, adding 15,700 new jobs.
Many people with a disability choose not to work a wage-and-salary position. They choose instead to take the entrepreneurial route. The Census Bureau estimates that workers with a disability accounted for 9.7 percent of all self-employed workers in Oregon in 2016. It’s also estimated that 10.4 percent of all Oregon workers with a disability were self-employed. Growth in self-employment is projected to be 13.0 percent (16,100 jobs) over the next decade.

Growth Spells Potential in Health Services

Workforce disability data is available for 13 broad industry sectors in Oregon. Twenty-one percent of workers with a disability were employed in the private education and health services industry. This was nearly double the share employed in retail trade, the industry with the second highest number of workers with a disability. While detailed industry data is unavailable, national occupational data may shed some light on how workers are distributed within the education and health services industry. At the national level, 10.8 percent of all workers with a disability were in health care support occupations, personal care and service occupations, and healthcare practitioners and technical occupations. Comparatively, 5.5 percent were in education, training, and library occupations. This suggests that a large portion of workers with a disability in the education and health services industry were employed in the health care and social assistance side of the industry. If this is indeed the case, then opportunity should abound in coming years. Education and health services is projected to grow 19 percent (54,700 jobs) in Oregon over the next 10 years. Three-fourths of expected growth should come in ambulatory health care services, social assistance, and nursing and residential care facilities. Growth in the industry should open doors to qualified workers.

Although one-fifth of all workers with a disability were employed in education and health services, workers with a disability accounted for just 6.3 percent of the industry’s total workforce. This was the second smallest share among the 13 broad industry sectors. The information industry saw the smallest share at 5.9 percent. The industry where workers with a disability accounted for the largest share was other services at 8.9 percent of the industry’s total workforce. The second largest share was in natural resources and mining (8.5%). Information, other services, and natural resources and mining combined are projected to add 17,800 new jobs to the state by 2027. In comparison, retail trade is projected to add 19,700 new jobs over the same period. Retail trade employed 12.7 percent of all workers with a disability. These workers accounted for 7.4 percent of the industry’s total workforce, which is a relatively large share when compared with other industries.

Workers with a disability accounted for just 6.4 percent of manufacturing’s total workforce and 6.7 percent of the total workforce for professional and business services. Both of these are relatively small when compared with other industries. However, manufacturing just beat out professional and business services for third highest number of workers with a disability. The two industries accounted for 10.4 percent and 10.3 percent of all workers with a disability, respectively. Growth in manufacturing should be subdued in coming years. The industry, which employed just shy of 190,000 workers total in 2017, is projected to add 12,600 new jobs for a gain of 7.0 percent by 2027. Professional and business services looks to offer more opportunity. The industry is projected to grow 17.0 percent by 2027, adding 41,200 new jobs.

There’s Plenty to Manage in Coming Years

Data on employment of workers with a disability by occupation covers only five broad occupational groups for Oregon. In Oregon, more than one-fourth of all workers with a disability held jobs in the broad group of management, professional, and related occupations. This broad group is substantial and accounted for over one-third of workers without a disability. Although the number of workers with a disability was large for this group, these workers accounted for just 5.3 percent of the group’s total workforce; the smallest share among the five broad groups. The management, professional, and related occupations group is projected to grow 14.9 percent in Oregon by 2027, adding just over 106,000 new jobs. The group is also projected to have 611,000 replacement openings from 2017 to 2027. The combination of growth and replacement openings should provide about 718,000 job openings over the next decade.
Slightly more detailed subgroup data is available at the national level, and this can help shed light on which jobs Oregon workers with a disability were likely to hold within a broad occupational group. At the national level, the management, professional, and related occupations broad group is detailed to 10 subgroups. Nearly one-third of workers with a disability in the broad group held jobs in the management occupations subgroup. Management occupations should see 15.3 percent growth, adding 20,000 new jobs. In addition, replacements should bring management job openings to 130,000 overall.

The broad group where workers with a disability accounted for the largest share of total workforce was the service occupations group at 8.6 percent. Almost one-fourth of all workers with a disability found employment in service occupations. At the national level, the majority of these workers found employment in three occupational subgroups: food preparation and serving related occupations; building, grounds cleaning, and maintenance occupations; and personal care and service occupations. Service occupations should see 14.2 percent growth over the decade, adding 53,000 new jobs. Total job openings for the group is projected to be a much larger 650,000 due to the need to replace workers. Nearly half of job growth and more than half of replacement openings for the broad group should come in the food preparation and serving related occupations subgroup.

One-fourth of all workers with a disability held jobs in sales and office occupations. These workers accounted for 7.2 percent of the occupational group’s total workforce. Nationally, workers with a disability were pretty evenly split between the sales occupations subgroup and the office occupations subgroup. Opportunities appear pretty evenly split as well. Sales and office occupations are projected to grow by 6.9 percent overall in Oregon by 2027. The addition of 34,000 new jobs along with an expected 617,000 replacement openings should offer plenty of potential for job seekers. Job growth should be stronger in sales occupations, with an expected 18,000 openings compared with 15,000 in office occupations. Replacement openings should be stronger in office occupations, with an expected 316,000 openings compared with 301,000 openings in sales.  

Other Opportunities Exist as Well

This report is not meant to suggest that workers with a disability are relegated to specific industries or occupations. Rather, it serves to highlight projected growth and job openings in industries and occupations where workers with a disability are currently concentrated. Qualified individuals can hold jobs in any industry and occupation. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, transportation, state and local government services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and commercial facilities.  

Read Ready, Willing, and Able by economists Felicia Bechtoldt and Erik Knoder to learn more about disability employment in Oregon. To discover other potential job opportunities and learn more about job specific qualifications, visit Qualityinfo.org and download the industry and occupational projections for Oregon. This information is also available for smaller areas.

 


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