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Employee Benefits Survey
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Technical Note

Data in this bulletin are from the National Compensation Survey (NCS), conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The bulletin contains 2008 data on detailed employer-provided health benefit plan provisions for private industry workers in the United States. Excluded from the survey are Federal government workers, State and local government workers, the military, agricultural workers, private household workers, aircraft manufacturing workers, and the self-employed. Previous publications containing information on employee benefits for private industry and State and local government workers are available on the BLS website

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 six earnings percentiles: Below the 10th percentile, 10th to under the 25th percentile, 25th to under the 50th percentile, 50th to under the 75th percentile, 75th to under the 90th percentile, and the 90th percentile and greater. Individual workers can fall into an earnings category different from the average for the occupation into which they are classified. The percentile breakouts are based on the average wage for each occupation surveyed, which may include workers both above and below the threshold. The percentile values are based on wages published in "National Compensation Survey: Occupational Earnings in the United States, 2007," U.S. Department of Labor, June 2008, Bulletin 2704. Values corresponding to the percentiles used in the tables are:

OOH Earnings Table Extraction Wizard - output frame
Characteristic Hourly wage percentile
10 25 50 (median) 75 90

Private industry workers


Not determinable estimates

Some tables in this bulletin contain columns with estimates classified as "not determinable." Situations that result in this classification can vary. In detailed provisions of employer-provided health care plans, the "not determinable" classification is used whenever partial information on a particular plan feature is available from the Summary Plan Description (SPD), used as a primary source of information on the provisions of a health benefit plan. For example, in table 1, workers are classified as participating in four types of fee-for-service plans. Those workers that were known to be participating in a fee-for-service plan, but the plan type was either not specified or was specified but did not fit into any of the four categories used in the table, were classified into the "not determinable" category.

Another situation in which the "not determinable" classification may be used is when workers are participating in plans in which a provision is known to exist, but no information on the specific details of this provision is available from the SPD. An example of this situation can be found in table 4. All workers in this table participate in fee-for-service plans. The majority of the workers that make up the base of this table participated in plans that specified a deductible, but a small percentage of workers participated in plans in which the deductible was mentioned but not described. These workers were classified into the "not determinable" category.

Interpreting the tables

Most of the tables in this bulletin exhibit the percentage of all employees participating in a particular benefit plan or the percentage covered by a specific provision. The base of each table is indicated by the statement under the title that indicates what subset of workers equals 100 percent. For example, table 1 indicates that all workers participating in medical care plans equal 100 percent. Fee-for service plans account for 78 percent of participants and health maintenance organizations, 22 percent of participants.

Other tables provide data on average values. For example, table 35 indicates the median number of days or visits covered per year for mental health care benefits. In the tables, the average value is based only on those who were affected by the provision; employees without such coverage were not included in the calculation of an average value. In table 35, only workers participating in plans with specified day limits were included.

Finally, some tables contain data on percentages of workers and average values. For example, table 3 indicates both the type and dollar amount of annual individual deductible in fee-for-service plans. The base of this table is all workers participating in fee-for-service plans. The non-shaded estimates are percentages of workers by the type of deductible (e.g., fixed deductible, variable deductible, etc.). To indicate values rather than percentages, the columns with median deductible amounts are shaded.

Survey response

The 2008 survey included a sample of approximately 3,900 establishments. Classifications in Appendix table 1 are defined as follows:

Responding. The establishment provided information on at least one usable occupation. An occupation is classified as usable if the following data are present: occupational characteristics (full- or part-time schedule, union or nonunion status, and time or incentive pay type); work schedule; and wage data.

Refused or unable to provide data. The establishment did not provide earnings, occupational classification, worker characteristics, and work schedule data for any occupation.

Out of business or not in survey scope. An out of business establishment is no longer in operation. Establishments not in the survey scope include farm and private households, the self-employed, the Federal government, and locations of an establishment out of the sampled area. Also excluded are establishments with no workers within the survey scope (if all employees are also owners, for example).

Obtaining additional information

Information on the survey scope, sample design, data collection, survey estimation, and reliability of estimates, technical references, and survey definitions are available in Chapter 8 of the BLS Handbook of Methods, available online at: Definitions of major plans, key provisions, and related benefit terms used by the National Compensation Survey are provided in the Glossary of Employee Benefit Terms, available online at:

For research articles on employee benefits, see the Monthly Labor Review or Compensation and Working Conditions Online at the BLS Web sites and For information on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, including background information, see the BLS Web sites and, respectively.