Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the National Compensation Survey (NCS)?

    The NCS is a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of employee salaries, wages, and benefits.  The survey is designed to produce data on the cost of labor at local levels, within broad regions, and nationwide.

  2. What is the purpose of the NCS, specifically the Employment Cost Index (ECI)?

    The National Compensation Survey provides comprehensive measures of occupational earnings, employment cost trends (Employment Cost Index and Employer Costs for Employee Compensation), benefit availability and employee enrollment, and detailed benefit provisions. These statistics are available for select metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, regions, and the Nation.

  3. What types of information would I need to provide at the first meeting with my Field Economist?

    NCS collects individual wage rates, worker characteristics, job descriptions, and benefits information including paid leave, insurance, retirement, supplemental pay, and summary plan descriptions.

  4. How long will this survey take to complete?

    The time varies and is dependent on company size, the complexity of payroll systems, and benefit offerings.  The initial gathering of data takes the longest, while the survey updates are much quicker and average 5-10 minutes.

  5. What methods are there to provide data?

    There are several methods available to provide data.  You may choose to submit data by mail, fax, telephone, email, online through the Bureau of Labor Statistics Internet Data Capture Facility (IDCF), and personal visits.

  6. Will my company’s name be published or made public?

    Your company’s name will never be published or made public.  Your company name and any other personally or company identifiable information is kept strictly confidential.  Federal law prohibits us from releasing any information that could reveal your  identity  or that of your business without your consent.  The information that you provide can only be used to produce statistics.  In other words, it can only be used to describe or analyze the characteristics of aggregate groups, not individuals, households, or specific organizations.

  7. If I have questions or concerns about the survey in which I am participating, who should I contact?

    The Field Economist assigned to you is an expert in wage and benefit information and any questions or concerns you may have should be directed to him/her. The Field Economist’s name can be found on the introductory letter or on the cover sheet of the update form sent to you in the mail.  Additionally, it is also on the BLS email template sent to you by your Field Economist if correspondence is through email.

  8. How often is this survey updated?

    The Employment Cost Index is updated on a quarterly basis.  Update months include: March, June, September, and December.  The open period to collect data for each update is typically a month and a half.  Wage-only schedules are updated annually.

  9. How secure is the information I provide online?

    We understand that confidentiality is extremely important to you. That is why we have established multiple layers of protection for our computer systems and records, and we regularly train our staff concerning policies to protect your information. These laws and policies ensure that no one will be able to misuse your information or gain an unfair advantage by obtaining inside information about your business.  More on our confidentiality procedures:  Confidentiality of Data by BLS for Statistical Purposes.

  10. Where can I find the benefit cost, rate, and participation information I am to provide?

    Cost, rate, and participation information can be found in a variety of documents and reports, depending on the specific benefit.  Please contact your Field Economist with any specific questions.  A list of our publications can be found at

  11. Where can I access publications from the National Compensation Survey?

    A list of publications can be found at

  12. Who uses the data published from the National Compensation Survey?

    The data is used by both the private and public sector to do the following:
    Private Sector Uses:

    • Evaluate benefit packages
    • Assist in wage and salary administration
    • Aid collective bargaining negotiation
    • Analyze contract settlements
    • Guide decision in business or plant location
    • Adjust long-term contracts

    Public Sector Uses:

    • Formulate and assess public policy
    • Aid in collective bargaining negotiations
    • Evaluate benefits packages
    • Analyze contract settlements
    • Index Medicare payments
    • Formulate monetary policy
  13. What other sorts of data does the Bureau of Labor Statistics collect/offer to the public?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers an array of statistical information in areas such as: inflation and prices, employment, unemployment, spending and time use, productivity, workplace injuries, and pay and benefits.  For more information on specific topics, please visit our website at or contact one of our Economic Analysis & Information (EA&I) offices.


Last Modified Date: June 30, 2011