What are employer costs for wages and benefits?

Employer Costs for Wages and Benefits and Changes in CostsThe Employment Cost Index (ECI) component of the National Compensation Survey (NCS) is a Principal Federal Economic Indicator that measures changes in labor costs. Average hourly costs for employee compensation are presented in the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) series.

Who has benefits?

Who has benefits and how do benefits work?The NCS also provides benefits incidence data on the percentage of workers with access to and participating in employer provided benefit plans. The survey covers a broad range of benefits including holidays and vacations, sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans. Details of employer-provided health and retirement plan provisions are also provided.

NCS News Releases

Worker participation rate for employer-sponsored medical care benefits is 52% in March


The participation rate for employer-sponsored medical care benefits for civilian workers was 52 percent in March 2016. The participation rate was 49 percent for private workers and 73 percent for state and local government workers.

Compensation costs up 0.6% Dec 2015-Mar 2016 and up 1.9% over the year ending March


Compensation costs increased 0.6 percent for civilian workers, seasonally adjusted, from December 2015 to March 2016. Over the year, compensation rose 1.9 percent, wages and salaries are up 2.0 percent, and benefits rose 1.7 percent.
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In March private employers spend $2.44 per hour worked for employee health benefits


Private employers spent an average of $32.06 per hour worked for compensation in March 2016. Health insurance was the largest individual employer benefit cost at $2.44, accounting for 7.6 percent of total compensation costs.

Archived NCS News Releases

  • ECI Archives - Complete set of ECI news releases from 1976.
  • ECEC Archives - Complete set of ECEC news releases from 1986.
  • Employee Benefits—latest benefit news releases.
    • Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2014 (TXT) (PDF)
    • Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2013 (TXT) (PDF)
    • Health Plan Provision in State and Local Government in the United States, 2011 (PDF)
  • Subscribe to the BLS News Service—receive the Employment Cost Index news release and other major economic indicators by e-mail.
  • NCS Regional News Releases
  • ECI Regional News Releases


NCS Databases


Database Name Special
Tables Text Files
Modeled Wage Estimates
  Top Picks for Wage Modeling   One Screen Data Search for Wage Modeling Multi Screen Data Search for Wage Modeling   Text Files for Wage Modeling
Pay & Cost of Benefits
Employment Cost Index
  Top Picks for ECI   One Screen Data Search for ECI Multi Screen Data Search for ECI Tables for ECI Text Files for ECI
Employer Cost for Employee Compensation
  Top Picks for ECEC   One Screen Data Search for ECEC Multi Screen Data Search for ECEC Tables for ECEC Text Files for ECEC
Benefit Incidence & Provisions
Employee Benefits Survey
(1985 to 2006)

  Top Picks for EBS   One Screen Data Search for EBS Multi Screen Data Search for EBS   Text Files for EBS
National Compensation Survey - Benefits (Beginning with
2010 data)*
  Top Picks for NCS Benefits     Multi Screen Data Search for NCS Benefits Tables for NCS Benefits Text Files for NCS Benefits

*2007 to 2009 benefits data are not available in the National Compensation Survey data base.
For data during these years, see the NCS publication archive.


More Tools

  • Series Report —Already know the series identifier for the statistic you want? Use this shortcut to retrieve your data.
  • National Compensation Search--allows you to search through all the National Compensation Survey publications that are currently available electronically.

All NCS Databases »


NCS Tables

NCS Tables

  • ECI Current-Dollar Historical Listings
  • ECI Constant-Dollar Historical Listings
    • ECI Historical Listings - Continuous Occupational and Industry Series, September 1975 - Present (TXT) (PDF)
    • ECI Historical Listings - Health Benefits, 1982 - Present (TXT) (PDF)
    • ECI Standard Errors
    • Corrections to Employment Cost Index data, June 2009 - September 2010
    • ECEC Historical Listing, 2004 to Present (Quarterly)-Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (TXT) (PDF) -- Quarterly estimates from March 2004 to the present, with sample establishments classified by industry categories based on the new 2002 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the 2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system.
    • ECEC Supplemental Tables Historical Data, December 2006 - Present (TXT) (PDF)
    • ECEC Supplemental Tables - March 2016 (TXT) (PDF) -- supplemental tables with series for private industry workers by occupational group, establishment size, and bargaining status in 14 detailed industries.
    • ECEC Relative Standard Errors (TXT) (PDF)
    • ECEC Relative Standard Errors-Supplementary Tables (TXT) (PDF)
    • EBS Standard Errors
    • Retirement Benefit Standard Errors, State and Local Government
    • ECEC Historical Listing, 2002-2003 (Quarterly)—Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (TXT) (PDF) -- Quarterly estimates from March 2002 to December 2003, with sample establishments classified by industry categories based on the 1987 Standard Industry Classification (SIC) system and by occupational classifications according to the 1990 Census of Population.
    • ECEC Historical Listing, 1986-2001 (Annual)—Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (TXT) (PDF) -- Annual estimates from March 1986 to March 2001, with sample establishments classified by industry categories based on the Standard Industry Classification (SIC) system and by occupational classifications according to the Census of Population.
    • Seasonal Factors and Revised Seasonally Adjusted Indexes
    • Chart-Changes in wages and salaries and benefit costs, civilian workers


NCS Publications


NCS Frequently Asked Questions


NCS Special Notice


Related Links to Other BLS Programs

  • Employment Cost Trends—quarterly indexes measuring change over time in labor costs and quarterly data measuring level of average costs per hour worked.
  • Benefits—comprehensive data on incidence and provisions of selected employee benefit plans.
  • Occupational Employment Statistics—data on employment and wages for over 800 occupations and for about 400 nonfarm industries for the nation, plus occupational data for States and metropolitan areas.
  • Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages —comprehensive employment and wage data by industry and geographic area for workers covered by State Unemployment Insurance laws.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook—provides data for 250 occupations, by nature of the work, working conditions, employment, job outlook and earnings, related occupations, sources of additional information, and training, other qualifications, and advancement.
  • Major Work Stoppages—provides monthly and annual data and analysis of major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers.

Other Useful Links


Contact Us


The Office of Compensation Levels and Trends, Branch of Survey Information and Publications, will be glad to assist you with questions about any of the components of the National Compensation Survey.

Ways to Contact BLS Directly

Email: Contact us

Telephone: (202) 691-6199 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 A.M. - 4:30 P.M.)

Question-by-FAX: (202) 691-6647

Information and assistance is also available from any BLS regional office.


Information voice phone: (202) 691-5200 The Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339

Write or Personal Visit

Bureau of Labor Statistics
2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E. - Suite 4175
Washington, D.C. 20212-0001

Other Ways to Access our Data:


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