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National Compensation Survey
OCS OCS Program Links


The Bureau's Office of Compensation Levels and Trends (OCLT) conducts the National Compensation Survey (NCS), which provides the following statistics:

  • Quarterly changes in employer costs Employment Cost Index (ECI)
  • Quarterly employer cost levels Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC)
  • Incidence and provisions of employee benefits

Employment Cost Index

The Employment Cost Index (ECI) is a quarterly measure of changes in labor costs. It is one of the principal economic indicators used by the Federal Reserve Bank. The following are some of the main features of the data:

  • Shows changes in wages and salaries and benefit costs, as well as changes in total compensation
  • Presents data as a total for all workers and separately for private industry and for State and local government workers
  • Reports changes by industry, occupational group, union and nonunion status, census region and division, and 15 large metropolitan areas
  • Provides seasonally adjusted and unadjusted data
  • Presents historical data on changes in labor costs
  • Uses fixed weights to control for shifts among occupations and industries

Why was the Employment Cost Index developed?

  • The ECI was developed in the mid 1970s in response to the rapid acceleration of both wages and prices at that time.
  • Monetary and fiscal policymakers needed a more accurate measure of the actual changes in employers' labor costs.
  • The ECI was first published for September 1975 for wage and salary changes in private industry.
  • Benefits & Total Compensation series were added in 1981.

ECI Constant Dollar Time Series

  • Adjusts data for the current price level
  • Uses the Consumer Price Index for adjustment

Employer Costs for Employee Compensation

The Employer Costs for Employee Compensation product is a quarterly survey that shows the employers' average hourly cost for total compensation and its components. Its key features include:

  • Shows compensation costs as a total, and broken out by:
    • Wages and salaries
    • Total benefit costs
    • Separate benefit costs for broad benefit categories such as paid leave, supplemental pay, insurance, retirement and savings, and legally required benefits
    • Separate benefit costs for detailed benefits such as paid holidays, health insurance, defined benefit pension, and workers' compensation
    • Uses current weights to reflect today's labor force composition
  • Provides cost data in dollar amounts and as percentages of compensation
  • Breaks out data on:
    • Civilian workers and State and local government workers into estimates for occupational and industry groups
    • Private industry workers by major occupation, industry, region, union and nonunion status, establishment size, full- or part-time status, and 15 large metropolitan areas


The National Compensation Survey (NCS) covers the incidence and detailed provisions of selected employee benefit plans in private establishments. The data are presented as the percent of employees who have access to or participate in certain benefits, or as average benefit provisions (for example, the average number of paid holidays provided to employees each year).

Estimates are published by:

  • broad occupational groups
  • full- and part-time status of employees
  • union and nonunion status
  • workers with average wages by selected categories
  • selected goods-producing and service-providing industries
  • establishments by selected employment sizes
  • census divisions

The NCS provides incidence and extensive provisions data for two major benefit areas:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement (both defined benefit and defined contribution components)


Last Modified Date: January 31, 2013