Employee Benefits technical note
Last Modified Date: July 24, 2015
Data in this release are from the National Compensation Survey (NCS), conducted by the U.S.
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This release contains March 2015 data on
civilian, private industry, and state and local government workers in the United States. Excluded are
federal government workers, the military, agricultural workers, private household workers, and the
self-employed. This news release provides data on the incidence of (access to and participation in)
selected benefits and the share of premiums paid by employers and employees for medical care.
Average hourly earnings from sampled occupations within an establishment were used to produce
estimates for worker groups within six earnings categories: the lowest 10 percent, the lowest 25
percent, the second 25 percent, the third 25 percent, the highest 25 percent, and the highest 10 percent.
The categories are based on unpublished March 2015 wages and salaries from the Employer Costs for
The percentiles were computed using earnings and scheduled hours of work reported for individual
workers in sampled establishment jobs. Establishments in the survey are asked to report only
individual worker earnings for each sampled job. For the calculation of the hourly percentile values,
the individual worker hourly earnings are weighted and arrayed from lowest to highest. The values
corresponding to the percentiles are:
Characteristics Hourly wage percentiles
10 25 50 (median) 75 90
Civilian workers $9.09 $12.02 $18.18 $29.10 $44.36
Private industry workers 9.00 11.64 17.40 27.89 43.27
State and local government 12.40 16.35 23.76 35.56 49.40
The lowest 10-percent and 25-percent wage categories include those occupations with an average
hourly wage less than the 10th percentile value and 25th percentile value, respectively. The second 25-
percent category includes those occupations that earn at or above the 25th percentile value but less than
the 50th percentile value. The third 25-percent category includes those occupations that earn at or
above the 50th percentile value but less than the 75th percentile value. Finally, the highest 25- and 10-
percent wage categories include those occupations with an average wage value greater than or equal to
the 75th and 90th percentile value, respectively.
(Note: Individual workers can fall into an earnings category different from the average for the
occupation into which they are classified because average hourly earnings for the occupation are used
to produce the benefit estimates.)
The tables on employer and employee medical premiums (tables 3 and 4) include participants in all
medical plans, with calculations for both single and family coverage. The calculations are not based on
actual decisions regarding medical coverage made by employees within the occupations. Rather, the
premium calculations are based on the assumption that all employees in the occupation can opt for
either single or family coverage.
Medical care plans provide services or payments for services rendered in the hospital or by a qualified
medical care provider.
Differences in retirement plan participation are influenced by type of plan offered. In defined benefit
plans participation is often mandatory, after meeting eligibility requirements, while participation in
defined contribution plans is often voluntary.
Take-up rates are the percentage of workers with access to a plan who participate in the plan. They are
computed by using the number of workers participating in a plan divided by the number of workers
with access to the plan, multiplied by 100, and rounded to the nearest one percent. Since the
computation of take-up rates is based on the number of workers collected rather than rounded
percentage estimates, the take-up rates in the tables may not equal the ratio of participation to access
Comparing private and public sector data
Incidence of employee benefits in state and local government should not be directly compared to
private industry. Differences between these sectors stem from factors such as variation in work
activities and occupational structures. Manufacturing and sales, for example, make up a large part of
private industry work activities but are rare in state and local government. Professional and
administrative support occupations (including teachers) account for two-thirds of the state and local
government workforce, compared with one-half of private industry.
Leave benefits for teachers
Primary, secondary, and special education teachers typically have a work schedule of 37 or 38 weeks
per year. Because of this work schedule, they are generally not offered vacation or holidays. In many
cases, the time off during winter and spring breaks during the school year are not considered vacation
days for the purposes of this survey.
Data for the March 2015 reference period were collected from a probability sample of about 8,600
establishments in private industry and approximately 1,500 establishments in state and local
The March 2015 NCS benefits survey represented approximately 131 million civilian workers; of this
number, about 112 million were private industry workers and nearly 19 million were state and local
For research articles on employee benefits, see the Monthly Labor Review at
www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/home.htm and Beyond the Numbers: Pay and Benefits at
www.bls.gov/opub/btn. For further technical information, see Chapter 8, "National Compensation
Measures," of the BLS Handbook of Methods at www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch8.pdf.