What Data We Collect

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) is a BLS survey that approaches employers and asks them to provide information about employee wages and benefits.  Click the links below for more information.

Wage Data

A Field Economist collects wage rates in various forms (hourly, weekly, monthly, semi-monthly, bi-weekly, annual, etc.) using the closest available payroll reference date. In addition to wage rates, a Field Economist gathers information about worker experience and knowledge to assess their work level. For more detailed information, including how we collect data, please visit the NCS glossary and BLS Handbook of Methods, Chapter 8.

Benefit Data

Below you will find more examples on the kinds of benefits NCS collects.  For these benefits, a variety of data is requested including plan details, employee and employer premiums, percent of employees participating in insurance and retirement plans, employer costs, and summary plan descriptions for health insurance and retirement plans. Here are the major benefit types we collect accompanied by brief definitions:

For more detailed definition of NCS compensation terms, please visit the NCS glossary page.

Time away from work, stated in terms of scheduled daily hours or annual weeks, during which the employee receives compensation.

  • Holidays - days of special religious, cultural, social, or patriotic significance on which work or business ordinarily ceases.  Employees may receive full pay, partial pay, or no compensation at all.
  • Sick leave – time away from work due to non-work related illness or injury.
  • Vacation - time away from work due to an extended rest or break.  The amount of vacation time off received each year may vary based on length of service or may be a fixed amount.  Vacation time is usually paid at full pay or partial pay, a percentage of annual earnings, or in rare cases, unpaid.
  • Personal leave - paid general purpose leave, used for reasons important to the individual employee, but not otherwise provided for by other forms of leave.  Some employers place restrictions on the purpose for which personal leave may be used.

Supplemental Pay

Non-wage cash payments that include:

  • Overtime - any work in addition to a regular work schedule. Employers do not necessarily offer a premium for the additional work, and employees exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are typically not covered by an overtime plan.
  • Shift differential - the amount of additional payments made to employees, per hour, for working a second, third, or weekend shift.
  • Non-production bonus - cash sums paid  to employees  (i.e., hiring bonus, cash profit-sharing (but not deferred profit sharing), end of year bonus, attendance bonus).  The payment is not directly related to the productivity of the individual employee.


A method of providing or purchasing protection against some or all of the economic consequence of a loss. Examples include:

  • Health insurance – provide expenses for preventive and protective medical care, dental care, vision care, or prescription drug care for employees and their families.
  • Life insurance –provides a set sum of money to a beneficiary upon the death of a covered employee.
  • Short-term disability insurance - a form of income protection during absences due to non-work related illness or injury (usually less than six months).
  • Long-term disability insurance - a form of income protection during absences due to non-work related illness or injury (usually more than six months).


Withdrawal from working life because of age, disability.  Examples include:

  • Defined contribution - a retirement plan in which the amount of the employer's annual contribution is specified. Individual accounts are set up for participants and benefits are based on the amounts credited to these accounts (through employer contributions and, if applicable, employee contributions) .  Upon retirement, the employee receives the balance in their account, which is based on contributions and investment gains or losses.  It does not promise a specific benefit amount upon retirement.  Common plan types include 401(k), 403(b), deferred profit sharing).
  • Defined benefit - a retirement plan that uses a specific, predetermined formula to calculate the amount of an employee’s future benefit. In the private sector, defined benefit plans are typically funded exclusively by employer contributions. In the public sector, defined benefit plans often require employee contributions.
  • Cash balance plan – a defined benefit plan in which an account is maintained for each plan participant. Each participant’s account is credited with employer contributions to fund retirement benefits.

Legally required benefits

Mandatory items that employees and/or employers are required to pay.  Examples include:

  • Workers’ compensation - legally-required medical care and salary replacement payments to employees who suffer job related illnesses or injuries and to dependents of those killed on the job.
  • State Unemployment Insurance - legally-required payments to unemployed workers who have been laid off from their jobs. Laws vary by State, but have to follow general guidelines established by the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA).

Other benefits

Paid benefits beyond sick leave, vacations, and holidays. Some examples include:

  • Jury duty leave - paid absence from work due to being summoned to serve as a juror.
  • Military leave - paid absence from work to fulfill military commitments.
  • Health savings accounts (HSAs) - a special account owned by an individual used to pay for current and future medical expenses.
  • Domestic Partner health coverage – access to health benefits for unmarried domestic partners of the same or opposite sex.


Last Modified Date: June 30, 2011