The National Compensation Survey: A Wealth of Benefits Data: The BLS National Compensation Survey Provides an Array of Benefits Data: In 2003, for the First Time, Information Is Available on the Percentages of Establishments Offering Health Insurance and Retirement Plans, and the Percentage of Medical Premiums Paid by Employers and Employees

By Blostin, Allan P. | Monthly Labor Review, August 2004 | Go to article overview

The National Compensation Survey: A Wealth of Benefits Data: The BLS National Compensation Survey Provides an Array of Benefits Data: In 2003, for the First Time, Information Is Available on the Percentages of Establishments Offering Health Insurance and Retirement Plans, and the Percentage of Medical Premiums Paid by Employers and Employees


Blostin, Allan P., Monthly Labor Review


The creation of the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey (NCS) has been a comprehensive effort to provide data on wages, costs, and benefits, all within one survey program. NCS outputs include the Employment Cost Index (ECI), which measures the change in employer costs for wages, salaries, and benefits; and the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC), which measures the average employer cost per employee hour worked for wages, salaries, and benefits. Both ECI and ECEC are published quarterly. (1) The NCS of Occupational Wages in the United States provides earnings data in a variety of occupations in different metropolitan areas nationwide, a few nonmetropolitan counties, nine census divisions, and for the Nation as a whole. (2)

The NCS also provides data on the incidence and detailed provisions for medical, dental, and vision care; private retirement plans; and other benefits for employees in all sizes of establishments. (3) A major goal of the NCS is to produce data linking information on benefit plan details to wages and employer benefit plan costs. The forerunner of the NCS benefits portion was the Employee Benefits Survey (EBS). Before the advent of the NCS, the EBS had provided data on the incidence and detailed provisions of selected benefits for different sectors of the economy in alternating years. Medium and large private establishments--those establishments of 100 workers or more--were studied in odd years; small private establishments--those establishments of fewer than 100 workers--and State and local governments were studied in even years. (4) Exhibit 1 shows the transition from the EBS to the NCS. The series of articles

appearing in this issue of the Monthly Labor Review cover a broad spectrum of topics highlighting the NCS benefits products.

Exhibit 1. Transition from the Employee Benefits Survey to the
National Compensation Survey (NCS)

  Year          Coverage               Publication and products

1996-98    All employees        Employee Benefits in Small Private
           in private             Establishments, 1996
           establishments       Employee Benefits in Medium and Large
           and State and          Private Establishments, 1997
           local                Employee Benefits in Stare and Local
           governments            Governments, 1998

                                Incidence and detailed provisions for
                                health insurance; retirement benefits;
                                other insurance benefits; paid leave;
                                and incidence of coverage for emerging
                                benefits

1999       All employees in     Employee Benefits in Private Industry,
           the private sector     1999

                                Incidence of coverage for health
                                insurance; retirement benefits; other
                                insurance benefits; paid leave and
                                emerging benefits; and employee
                                contributions for medical insurance

2000       All employees in     National Compensation Survey: Employee
           the private sector     Benefits in Private Industry in the
                                  United States, 2000

                                Incidence and detailed provisions for
                                health insurance and retirement
                                benefits; and incidence of coverage
                                for other insurance benefits, paid
                                leave, and emerging benefits

2003 (1)   All employees in     National Compensation Survey: Employee
           the private sector     Benefits in Private Industry in the
                                  United States, 2003

                                Incidence and detailed provisions for
                                health insurance; retirement benefits;
                                other insurance benefits; paid leave;
                                and incidence of coverage for emerging
                                benefits

 Year           Coverage                   New NCS outputs

1996-98    All employees        Not applicable
           in private
           establishments
           and State and
           local
           governments

1999      All employees in      Data are tabulated by various worker
          the private sector    and establishment characteristics such
                                as occupations, union status, full-
                                time and part-time status, size of
                                establishment, geographic region,
                                goods producing and service producing
                                industries, all within one table

2000       All employees in     The first NCS bulletin describing
           the private sector   detailed provisions on health and
                                retirement benefits

2003 (1)   All employees in     The major first-time outputs consist
           the private sector   of:

                                * the percentage of establishments
                                offering health insurance and
                                retirement benefits;

                                * the percentage of workers that are
                                offered health insurance, retirement
                                benefits, and other insurance
                                benefits;

                                * the percentage of total medical
                                premiums paid by employers and
                                employees; and

                                * characteristics of cash balance
                                plans (a new type of defined benefits
                                plan). … 

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The National Compensation Survey: A Wealth of Benefits Data: The BLS National Compensation Survey Provides an Array of Benefits Data: In 2003, for the First Time, Information Is Available on the Percentages of Establishments Offering Health Insurance and Retirement Plans, and the Percentage of Medical Premiums Paid by Employers and Employees
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