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National Compensation Survey
OCS OCS Program Links

Data Collection

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) provides comprehensive measures of occupational earnings, employment cost trends (ECI, ECEC) and benefit incidence and detailed benefit provisions. These statistics are available for select metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, regions, and the Nation.

BLS field economists visit establishments across the country and ask a series of questions. For example:

  • What is the primary business activity of the establishment?
  • What types of occupations does the establishment employ?
  • How many people are in each occupation and what are they paid?
  • What types of benefits do the employees receive?
  • How many hours do the employees work?
  • What are the duties and responsibilities of the job?


During this interview, the field economist is able to obtain wage data by occupation and work level. Work levels are determined using a "point factor leveling" process. This procedure incorporates four occupational leveling factors to determine the work level. The factors are:

- Knowledge - Job controls and complexity
- Contacts - Physical environment

Leveling information may be obtained either during the interview or from a formal job description received from the respondent. The type of data outlined above allows NCS to publish occupational wage statistics for localities, census divisions, and the Nation.


NCS also collects data on benefit incidence (the percentage of workers with access to and participation in employer provided benefit plans) and detailed benefit provisions. Availability, plan provision, and employee cost (i.e., required employee premiums for insurance or required contributions) data are published for various benefit categories. In addition, the NCS program collects limited data on over 20 emerging (or nontraditional) benefits such as child care assistance, flexible workplace, long-term care insurance, employee assistance programs, subsidized commuting, and stock options .

The ECI tracks changes over time in total benefit costs as well as benefit cost levels information (in the form of costs per hour worked and percent of total compensation) in the ECEC.  There are 5 categories of benefits for which incidence/participation, provisions, and/or cost data are collected. They are:

  • Paid leave - vacations, holidays, personal, and sick leave
  • Insurance - life, health, short-term disability, and long-term disability insurance
  • Retirement - defined benefit (pensions) and defined contribution
  • Legally required benefits - Social Security, federal unemployment insurance, state unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation
  • Supplemental pay - premium pay (overtime, weekend, or holiday pay), shift differentials, and nonproduction bonuses.


Last Modified Date: July 2, 2008