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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 publication contains March 2016 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 release provides data on the incidence and key provisions of selected benefit plans, as well as on premiums paid by employers and employees for medical care and employee contribution requirements in retirement plans.

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 The categories are based on unpublished March 2016 wages and salaries from the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation.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 $9.54 $12.40 $18.52 $29.80 $45.36
Private industry workers $9.37 $12.00 $17.73 $28.60 $44.33
State and local government workers $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 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.)

For definitions of benefit terms, see the glossary.

Selected concepts and terms


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 care.


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: Incidence can mean either access or rates of participation in a benefit plan.)

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. 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

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.

Sample size

See appendix table 1.

Survey scope

See appendix table 2.

Additional 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