Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Employer Costs for Employee Compensation

Questions and Answers

Find answers to commonly asked questions about the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) and the National Compensation Survey (NCS). Selecting the arrow next to a topic will reveal more information. You may expand or collapse all categories using the buttons below. To expand categories without moving the cursor, you may press tab until "Expand All" is selected, then press enter.

General information
  1. What is the National Compensation Survey (NCS)?
  2. What is the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC)?
    • The Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC), which is produced from the NCS, measures employers’ costs per hour worked for total compensation, and costs as a percent of total compensation. For example, these costs are often expressed as “In December 2018, civilian employers on average paid $36.32 per hour worked for total compensation, which consists of wages and salaries and the cost of employee benefits.”
    • The ECEC reflects both changes in compensation and changes in employment, and provides information about average compensation in the economy at a point in time.
  3. How can I stay up to date with the ECEC?
    • Future ECEC release dates are available on the BLS release calendar. Subscribers to the BLS Email Subscription Service can receive BLS news releases and notifications by email.
    • BLS is also on social media. Follow the BLS on Twitter to see the latest statistics that can help you make informed decisions, whether you're a worker, jobseeker, student, employer, investor, or policymaker.
  4. How can I get assistance using the ECEC?
    • Information specialists are available in the national office to provide assistance via email or telephone: (202) 691-6199 (Monday - Friday, 8:30 A.M. - 4:30 P.M. ET). If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services.
ECEC Data Overview
  1. What types of data are available?
    • The ECEC publication provides estimates for the March, June, September and December reference periods, measuring the average employer cost for wages and salaries as well as benefits per employee hour worked, and costs as a percent of total compensation, by occupational or industry group at a point in time. For an overview of the ECEC industry groups and occupational groups, see Classification systems used by the National Compensation Survey.
    • Recent ECEC data is available on the BLS website in a variety of ways, including the public database. To view the complete list, see the accessing data section of the Handbook of Methods. In some circumstances, BLS can provide estimates not available through NCS publications. Examples of previously fulfilled requests can be found in the NCS Data Requests page.
    • Compensation percentile data is released for the March reference period of the ECEC, calculated to identify compensation ranges. The compensation percentile data are constructed using wages and salaries to determine the 10th, 50th (median), and 90th percentile bands and the average benefit costs for observations included in those percentile wage bands. For information on the ECEC’s compensation percentiles, see Compensation Percentiles: A tool for assessing employee compensation.
  2. Who is included in the civilian economy?
    • The ECEC covers the civilian economy, which includes data from both private industry and state and local government. Excluded from the civilian economy are workers employed in federal government and quasi-federal agencies, military personnel, workers in the agricultural sector, volunteers, unpaid workers, individuals receiving long-term disability compensation, and those working overseas. In addition, private industry excludes workers in private households, the self-employed, workers who set their own pay (e.g., proprietors, owners, major stockholders, and partners in unincorporated firms), and family members paid token wages.
  3. What is included and excluded in wages and salaries and benefits?
    • Wages and salaries are defined as regular payments from employer to employee as compensation for services performed during a specific period of time or based on production, sales, or specific output. For the NCS, tips are excluded, and so are uniform and tool allowances, free or subsidized room and board, and on-call pay. Other BLS programs may include third-party payments, like tips, in wage and salaries, see the comparison matrix of BLS compensation data sources for an overview.
    • The following components are included in wages and salaries:
      • Incentive-based pay, including commissions, production bonuses, and piece rates
      • Cost-of-living allowances
      • Hazard pay
      • Payments of income deferred due to participation in a salary reduction plan
      • Deadhead pay, defined as pay given to transportation workers returning in a vehicle without freight or passengers
    • Total benefit costs consist of five major categories and include 18 benefit costs:
      • Paid leave - vacation, holiday, sick, and personal leave
      • Supplemental pay - overtime and premium, shift differentials, and nonproduction bonuses
      • Insurance - life, health, short-term and long-term disability
      • Retirement and savings - defined benefit and defined contribution
      • Legally required benefits - Social Security (refers to Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program), Medicare, federal and state unemployment insurance, and Workers’ Compensation
  4. What degree of geographic detail is available through the ECEC?
    • ECEC data is available by the four census regions and by the nine census divisions. In addition, in the March reference period, private industry data are produced for 15 metropolitan areas.
    • While ECEC data is not available by state, the Modeled Wage Estimates, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, and State and Metro Area Earnings programs all have wage information at the state level.
    • To learn about the geographic areas, industry and occupational classification systems used by the NCS, please visit the Classification systems used by the National Compensation Survey page. There are four census regions comprised of states and the District of Columbia. Each census region can be further disaggregated to smaller areas, which are referred to as census divisions. The nine census divisions are groupings of the fifty states as well as the District of Columbia which compose the four census regions.
    • Published Census regions and divisions in the NCS with associated states
      Region: Northeast South Midwest West
      Division: New England Middle Atlantic South Atlantic East South Central West South Central East North Central West North Central Mountain Pacific
      States: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey, U.S. Census, and Office of Management and Budget

ECEC calculation
  1. How is ECEC data calculated?
    • The calculation details for the ECEC are covered in the calculation section of the Handbook of Methods. The ECEC uses current employment weights (as opposed to fixed employment weights used in the ECI) to reflect the changing composition of today’s labor force to calculate cost levels. The employment weights are derived from two BLS programs: the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) and the Current Employment Statistics (CES).
  2. How reliable are the measurements for the ECEC?
    • Measures of reliability are available to assist users in ascertaining the reliability of the estimates. BLS provides relative standard errors for Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC) estimates. Relative standard errors (expressed as a percentage of cost) are a measure of precision (reliability) of estimates. For a more detailed explanation of relative standard errors, see Relative standard errors for the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation.
Using the ECEC
  1. How can ECEC data be used?
  2. What are some limitations of ECEC?
    • Although the ECEC statistics cover both wages and employee benefits, there is an important distinction between the two concepts that must be kept in mind when interpreting the ECEC benefit cost measures: all jobs pay a wage or salary, but not all employers offer the same employee benefits. The same employer may even offer different benefits for different jobs. This distinction arises when either the employer does not provide the benefit to workers in the job or when workers choose not to participate in the benefit even when the employer offers it.
    • To find out more, see “Benefit Cost Concepts and the Limitations of ECEC Measurement”.
  3. Can you compare private and public sector data in the ECEC?
    • Compensation cost levels in state and local government should not be directly compared with levels in 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.

Last Modified Date: May 15, 2023