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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 2009 data on detailed employer-provided health and retirement benefit plan provisions for private industry workers in the United States. Excluded from the 2009 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 groupings: 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. Individual workers can fall into an earnings category different from the average for the occupation into which they are classified. The breakouts are based on the average wage for each occupation surveyed, which may include workers both above and below the threshold. The categories are based on wages published in "National Compensation Survey: Occupational Earnings in the United States, 2008," U.S. Department of Labor, August 2009, Bulletin 2720. Values corresponding to the percentiles used in the tables are:

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). The SPD is used as a primary source of information on the provisions of a health benefit plan. For example, in one of the tables, 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. For example, in one of the tables, all workers 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

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 all workers participating in savings and thrift plans that specify matching contributions.” All estimates shown in the table are based on the set of workers specified underneath the table title and on any subsets indicated by column headers.

Most of the estimates in this bulletin are expressed in terms of the percentage of workers participating in a particular benefit plan or the percentage covered by a specific provision. Some estimates, however, provide values other than percentages of workers, for example, the median age requirement for eligibility to participate in a defined benefit retirement plan; dollar averages, medians, and percentiles for various benefit provisions; and the specified matching percent (by percentile) an employer will contribute to an employees’ savings and thrift retirement plan.

The non-shaded estimates indicate percentages of workers. Shaded estimates are those that measure values other than the percent of workers.

Survey response

The 2009 survey included a sample of approximately 3,700 establishments.

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:


Last Modified Date: July 15, 2010