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Employee Benefits Survey
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Technical Note

Estimates in this publication are from the National Compensation Survey (NCS), conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Data were collected on civilian, private industry and state and local government workers in the United States for the period March 2012. Previous publications containing information on employee benefits for civilian, private industry and state and local government workers are available on the BLS Web site

Survey scope and method

For information on the survey scope, sample design, industry and occupational classification systems, data collection, survey estimation, and reliability of estimates, see the BLS Handbook of Methods, Chapter 8, “National Compensation Measures,” available online at For information on survey establishment response and on the number of workers represented by the survey, see Appendix tables 1 and 2, respectively, linked below.

Appendix table 1

Appendix table 2

Calculation details

For data presented by wage levels, average hourly earnings for occupations within an establishment were used to produce estimates for worker groups within the 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 computed using earnings reported for individual workers in sampled establishment jobs and their scheduled hours of work. Establishments in the survey may report only individual worker earnings for each sampled job. For the calculation of these estimates, the individual worker hourly earnings are appropriately weighted and then arrayed from lowest to highest.

The published 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles designate position in the earnings distribution within each published occupation. At the 50th percentile, the median, half of the hours are paid the same as or more than the rate shown in the data tables, and half are paid the same as or less than the rate shown. At the 25th percentile, one-fourth of the hours are paid the same as or less than the rate shown. At the 75th percentile, one-fourth of the hours are paid the same as or more than the rate shown. The 10th and 90th percentiles follow the same logic. The percentile values are based on wages published in the bulletin National Compensation Survey: Occupational Earnings in the United States, 2010. The hourly wage percentiles used this year are unchanged from the March 2011 bulletin since the occupational earnings used for the earnings percentiles from the National Compensation Survey are no longer being published. Updated percentiles from a different survey will be incorporated with the March 2013 report.

Values corresponding to the percentiles used in the tables are as follows:

Characteristics Hourly wage percentiles
10 25 50
75 90
Civilian workers $8.50 $11.17 $16.73 $26.25 $39.33
  Private industry workers $8.25 $10.69 $15.87 $24.81 $37.89
  State and local government workers $11.77 $15.52 $22.27 $33.01 $45.31


The tables on employer and employee medical premiums include participants in all medical plans, with calculations for both single and family coverage. Similar tables for health premiums (which include data on medical, dental, vision, and prescription drug plan coverage) are also published. The calculations are not based on actual decisions regarding coverage made by employees within the occupations. Rather, the premium calculations are based on the assumption that all employees in the occupation have identical coverage.

Interpreting the tables

The set of workers on which estimates in the tables are based is indicated by the statement directly under each table’s title. For example, the statement may indicate that “All workers participating in medical care plans = 100 percent,” or “Includes workers participating in medical care benefits with flat dollar amount contributory coverage.” All estimates shown in the table are based on the given set of workers and on any subsets indicated by column headers.

Most of the tables in this bulletin exhibit the percentage of employees participating in a particular benefit plan. Some tables provide estimates on other types of percentages, such as the percent of a medical premium cost shared by employers and employees or a medical co-payment percentage. Some tables exhibited estimates on the number of days provided and on dollar amounts; these may be expressed as averages, medians, or percentiles.

Finally, some tables contain data on both percentages of workers and provision estimates. For example, one table indicates the percent of workers with fixed duration short-term disability plans, the number of weeks at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles for workers with fixed duration plans, and the percent of workers with variable duration plans.  The base of this table is all workers with short-term disability coverage. The non-shaded estimates are percentages of workers with fixed duration and with variable duration plans. To indicate values other than percentages of workers, the columns with the number of weeks at a particular percentile are shaded.

Benefit definitions

For definitions of major plan types, key provisions, and related terms used in these tables, see the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms, July 2012, at the BLS Web site