Employee Benefits technical note
Last Modified Date: July 22, 2016
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 2016 data on
employer-provided benefits offered to 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.
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. Administrative support and professional 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
vacations 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.
Medical care premiums: The estimates for medical care premiums are not based on actual decisions
regarding medical coverage made by employees; instead they are based on the assumption that all
employees in the occupation can opt for single or family coverage. In instances where annual premiums
are collected, the values are converted to a monthly premium amount using the annual work
schedule. Annual work schedules may be less than twelve months.
Sample size: See appendix table 1 at the end of this release.
Survey scope: See appendix table 2 at the end of this release.
Obtaining information: For research articles on employee benefits, see the Monthly Labor Review
benefits section at www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/subject/b.htm and Beyond the Numbers: Pay and Benefits at
www.bls.gov/opub/btn/archive/home.htm. For further technical information, see Chapter 8, "National
Compensation Measures," BLS Handbook of Methods at www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch8.pdf.
Definitions of major terms:
Access: Employees are considered to have access to a benefit plan if it is available for their use. For
example, if an employee is permitted to participate in a medical care plan offered by the employer, but
the employee declines to do so, he or she is placed in a category with those having access to medical
Participation: Employees in contributory plans are considered participants in an insurance or retirement
plan if they have paid required contributions and fulfilled any applicable service requirements.
Employees in noncontributory plans are counted as participating regardless of whether they have
fulfilled the service requirements. Note that the term "incidence" can refer to either rates of access or
rates of participation in a benefit plan.
Take-up rate: The percentage of workers with access to a plan who participate in the plan.
Retirement benefits include defined benefit pension plans and defined contribution retirement plans.
Workers are counted as having access or participating in retirement benefits if they have access or
participate in at least one type of plan, defined benefit or defined contribution; some workers may have
access to or participate in both. Differences in retirement plan participation are influenced by type of
plan offered. Participation in defined benefit plans is often mandatory, subject to any applicable
eligibility requirements, while participation in defined contribution plans is often voluntary.
Medical care plans provide services or payments for services rendered in the hospital or by a qualified
medical care provider.
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 2016 wages and salaries series from the Employer Costs for
Employee Compensation at www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/ecec_06092016.pdf.
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 $9.54 $12.40 $18.52 $29.80 $45.36
Private industry 9.37 12.00 17.73 28.60 44.33
State and local government 12.70 16.71 24.20 35.99 49.79
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.
Individual workers can be in earnings category that is different from the occupation into which they are
classified because average hourly earnings for the occupation are used to produce the benefit estimates.