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August 2004, Vol. 127, No. 8
New benefits data from the National Compensation Survey
One of the greatest challenges a statistical agency faces is keeping up to date with developments in the economy and with the evolving information needs of the agency’s customers. In addition to resuming a regular program of reports on the incidence and characteristics of employee benefits plans, the 2003 National Compensation Survey (NCS) employee benefits publications introduced a variety of new data tabulations. These new data items range from information on the percentage of establishments offering major types of benefits to their employees and the percentage of total medical premiums paid by employers and employees, to tabulations that link benefit plan coverage to workers’ wages, to new details on such topics as the types of bonuses offered employees, employer contributions to cash balance pension plans, and orthodontic coverage for dependents of employees.
The new tabulations stem from several sources. First, employee compensation programs have long been a dynamic part of our economy. Wages and salaries, on the one hand, and employee benefit packages, on the other, evolve in response to a variety of pressures and needs. Employers seek competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining employees, while at the same time trying to control labor costs. Some compensation programs follow trends in collective bargaining; others reflect prevailing practices in an industry or among associated employers. Employee benefit plans are rewritten to meet legal or regulatory mandates. Second, customer requests have impelled the Bureau of Labor Statistics to introduce many new data tabulations. In some cases, these data focus on new elements of the compensation package; in other cases, the tabulations highlight fresh perspectives on employee compensation. Third, some of the new items result from a central goal of the NCS: to combine in a single place all of the data that were formerly collected and stored in several separate survey programs.1 This integration of separate programs into one makes possible, for the first time, comparisons that look across the various forms of employee compensation data.
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 2004 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 The former programs were the Employment Cost Index, which includes the series on Employer Costs for Employee Compensation; the Employee Benefits Survey; and the Occupational Compensation Survey Program. For a background on these programs, see William J. Wiatrowski, "The National Compensation Survey: Compensation Statistics for the 21st Century" (PDF), Compensation and Working Conditions, winter 2000, pp. 5–14.
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