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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 2012 data on detailed employer-provided health and retirement benefit plan provisions for private industry workers in the United States. Excluded from the 2012 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

Average hourly earnings from sampled occupations within an establishment were used to produce estimates for worker groups within the 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 March 2012 wages and salaries from the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation data release.

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:

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 and 25th percentile value, respectively. The second 25 percent category includes those occupations that earn at or above the 25th percentile value but less than the 50th percentile value. The third 25 percent category includes those occupations that earn 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." Situations that result in this classification can vary. In detailed provisions of employer-provided health care plans, the "not determinable" classification is used whenever no 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 table 1, workers are classified as participating in four types of fee-for-service plans. Workers that were known to participate 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 participate 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 included in 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, such as 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 nonshaded estimates indicate percentages of workers. Shaded estimates measure values other than the percent of workers.

Survey sample

The 2012 survey included a sample of approximately 3,200 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, 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 27, 2018