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Employee Benefits Survey
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Technical Note

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 2014 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.

Calculation details

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 The categories are based on unpublished March 2014 wages and salaries from the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation.

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
75 90
Civilian workers $8.99 $11.75 $17.64 $28.13 $42.90
Private industry workers $8.65 $11.15 $16.82 $26.67 $41.46
State and local government workers $12.16 $16.03 $23.34 $34.91 $48.49


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 make at or above the 25th percentile value but less than the 50th percentile value. The third 25-percent category includes those occupations that make 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

Medical care plans provide services or payments for services rendered in the hospital or by a qualified medical care provider.

Retirement plans

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. 

The 2014 estimates of State and local government workers’ participation in retirement plans and defined benefit retirement plans are not strictly comparable to corresponding estimates in previous years.  For 2014, participation in defined benefit plans could not be determined in some instances, when multiple plans existed within an establishment.

Take-up rates

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 estimates.

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.

Sample size

Data for the March 2014 reference period were collected from a probability sample of about 9,600 establishments in private industry and approximately 1,500 establishments in state and local government. (See Appendix Table 1)

Survey scope

The March 2014 NCS benefits survey represented approximately 128 million civilian workers; of this number, about 109 million were private industry workers and nearly 19 million were state and local government workers. (See Appendix Table 2)

Introduction of 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC)

Beginning with this release, Employee Benefits in the United States are based on 2010 SOC. No substantive changes occurred in occupational coverage for about 90 percent of the detailed occupations in the 2010 SOC. However the detailed occupation Registered Nurses, for which data are shown separately in this release, did undergo classification changes. For information about this and other changes see

Obtaining information

For research articles on employee benefits, see the Monthly Labor Review at and Beyond the Numbers: Pay and Benefits at For further technical information, see Chapter 8, "National Compensation Measures," of the BLS Handbook of Methods at