National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2021
Table of Contents
The National Compensation Survey (NCS) provides comprehensive measures of compensation cost trends and the coverage, costs, and provisions of employer-sponsored benefits in the United States. This bulletin presents 2021 estimates of the incidence and key provisions of employer-sponsored benefits for civilian workers, private industry workers, as well as state and local government workers by worker and establishment characteristics.
U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) staff designed the survey, collected and reviewed the survey data, and prepared survey estimates for publication. For information about the survey design, concepts, and calculations see the Handbook of Methods: National Compensation Measures.
The survey could not have been conducted without the cooperation of the many private businesses and state and local government agencies and jurisdictions that provided benefits data. BLS thanks these respondents for their cooperation. Additional information for survey respondents is available on the National Compensation Survey (NCS) Respondents page.
For more information on benefits estimates, contact National Compensation Survey staff by:
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The contents of this publication are in the public domain and, with appropriate citation, may be reproduced without permission.
Measures of reliability
Measures of reliability are available for published estimates, which provide users a measure of the precision of an estimate to ensure that it is within an acceptable range for their intended purpose. For further information see Technical Information about Standard Errors for Benefit Estimates.
Comparing private and public sector data
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.
Statistics for private industry and state and local government are published separately and then combined to measure the civilian economy. Excluded from the civilian economy are workers employed in federal government and quasi-federal agencies, military personnel, agricultural workers, 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.
Leave benefits for teachers
Primary, secondary, and special education teachers may have a work schedule of 37 or 38 weeks per year aligning with the school 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.
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 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.
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. Monthly premiums are collected when possible. Annual premiums are converted to monthly premiums by dividing by 12 months.
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.
Average hourly wage percentiles
Estimates by worker average wage are grouped into six wage 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 use percentile values based on unpublished March 2021 wages and salaries from the BLS Employer Costs for Employee Compensation publication.
The percentiles are computed using hourly wages and salaries along with scheduled hours of work reported for individual workers in sampled establishments. Establishments in the survey are asked to report only individual worker wages and salaries for each sampled job. For the calculation of the percentile values, the individual worker hourly wages and salaries are weighted and arrayed from lowest to highest. The values corresponding to the percentiles are:
The lowest 10- and 25-percent wage categories include those occupations with an average hourly rate less than the 10th percentile value and 25th percentile value, respectively. The second 25-percent category includes those occupations with rates at or above the 25th percentile value but less than the 50th percentile value. The third 25-percent category includes those occupations with rates 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 hourly wage greater than or equal to the 75th percentile value and 90th percentile value, respectively.
Individual workers can fall into a wage category different from the average for the occupation into which they are classified because average hourly wages for the occupation are used to produce the benefit estimates.
Interpreting the tables
All estimates shown in the table are based on the set of workers specified in the statement underneath the table title and on any subsets indicated by column headers. For example, the statement may indicate that "All workers = 100 percent" or “All workers with paid sick leave = 100 percent.”
One-third of the private industry sample is rotated each year except in years when the government sample is replaced. The government sample is replaced less frequently than the private industry sample. The state and local government sample was replaced in its entirety for the March 2017 reference period.
For technical information on survey methods, see the Handbook of Methods: National Compensation Measures. The Concepts section provides definitions for worker and establishment characteristics, including geographic areas.
For articles on employee benefits, see the Monthly Labor Review benefits section and Beyond the Numbers: Pay and Benefits, and The Economics Daily. Benefit publications from 1980 to the present are available through the publications archive. In addition, the benefits database may also be used to obtain data from 1985 to 2006 and 2010 to the present.
Appendix table 1 - sample size
Appendix table 2 - survey scope
Last Modified Date: September 23, 2021