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Employee Benefits Survey
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Technical Note

Data in this bulletin are from the National Compensation Survey (NCS), which is conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The bulletin contains data on detailed provisions of employer-provided health benefit plans 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 workers who are self-employed. Previous publications containing information on employee benefits for civilian, private industry, and state and local government workers are available on the BLS website:

Calculation details

For data presented by wage category, average hourly earnings for 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 hourly wage percentiles published in National Compensation Survey: Occupational Earnings in the United States, 2010, Bulletin 2753.† The hourly wage percentiles used to form the wage categories are unchanged from the 2009 bulletin since the occupational earnings used for the percentile values are no longer published. Updated percentiles from a different survey will be used to form the wage categories in future publications.

The percentiles were computed using earnings reported for individual workers in sampled establishment jobs and their scheduled hours of work. Establishments in the survey may report only individual worker earnings for each sampled job.† For the calculation of the hourly percentile values, the individual worker hourly earnings are appropriately weighted and arrayed from lowest to highest. The values corresponding to the percentiles are:

Characteristic Hourly wage percentile
10 25 50 (median) 75 90

Private industry workers


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.)

Not determinable estimates

Some tables in this bulletin contain columns with estimates classified as "not determinable." The reasons for this classification may vary. In detailed provisions of employer-provided health care plans, the "not determinable" classification is used whenever only 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 planóbut the plan type was either not specified or was specified but did not fit into any of the four categories used in the tableówere classified in 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 in the "not determinable" category.

Interpreting the tables

The set of workers that represent the base, or 100 percent in the table, is indicated by the statement directly under each table’s title. For example, the statement may say, “All workers participating in medical care plans = 100 percent,” or “All workers participating in fee-for-service plans = 100 percent.” All estimates shown in the table are based on the set of workers specified in statements 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, estimates might provide both the type and dollar amount of annual individual deductibles 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 (for example, fixed deductible or variable deductible). Shaded estimates are those that measure values other than the percentage of workers. Shading is only used when there is a mixture of percentages and dollar values.

Survey sample

The 2011 survey included a sample of approximately 3,200 establishments.

Obtaining additional information

Information on the survey scope, sample design, data collection, survey estimation, reliability of estimates, technical references, and survey definitions is available in Chapter 8 of the BLS Handbook of Methods, 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,


Last Modified Date: October 5, 2015