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March 1 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) invites public comments to OMB by April 5, 2021 regarding its proposal to continue the National Compensation Survey (NCS).
The NCS is an ongoing survey of earnings and benefits among private firms, State, and local government. Data from the NCS program include estimates of wages covering broad groups of related occupations, and data that directly links benefit plan costs with detailed plan provisions. The NCS is used to produce the Employment Cost Trends, including the Employment Cost Index (ECI) and Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC), employee benefits data (on coverage, cost, and provisions), and data used by the President's Pay Agent. This data is used by compensation administrators and researchers in the public and private sectors. Data from the NCS are used to help in determining monetary policy (as a Principal Federal Economic Indicator). The integrated program's single sample produces both time-series indexes and cost levels for industry and occupational groups, thereby increasing the analytical potential of the data.

The NCS employs probability methods for selection of occupations. This ensures that sampled occupations represent all occupations in the workforce, while minimizing the reporting burden on respondents. The survey collects data from a sample of employers. These data will consist of information about the duties, responsibilities, and compensation (earnings and benefits) for a sample of occupations for each sampled employer. Data will be updated on a quarterly basis. The updates will allow for production of data on change in earnings and total compensation.
The NCS is a national design survey. The private industry sample is on a three-year rotational cycle. When a new NCS State and local government sample is fielded, the private sample is frozen instead of rotated. This happens approximately every 10 years and is estimated to occur again in 2025.

The NCS uses a factor evaluation method with four factors to evaluate the work level of jobs. The four-factor leveling method is the result of an earlier joint effort between BLS and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) undertaken at the request of the President’s Pay Agent. This simplified approach produces more consistent work level occupational matching. Each factor has several levels reflecting increasing duties and responsibilities, and there are point values associated with each level. The four factors are:

•    Knowledge – the amount of knowledge required for the job
•    Job Controls and Complexity – the type of direction received and the nature of the job
•    Contacts – the nature and purpose of contacts within a job but outside the supervisory chain
•    Physical Environment – risks involved and physical demands

The NCS collects data on both wage and employee benefits for selected jobs at all sampled establishments. These data include the incidence, costs, and provisions of the employer-provided benefits. For all of these establishments, the BLS updates the wage and benefit cost data quarterly. This updating allows for the publication of change in the cost of wages, benefits, and total compensation on a quarterly basis.
The published compensation data include the following information:
•    Employer cost of total compensation
•    Employer cost of wages and salaries
•    Employer cost of benefits
•    Employee cost of selected benefits
•    Percent of employees participating in benefit plans
•    Provisions of benefit plans
•    Percent change in total compensation costs
•    Percent change in wages and salaries
•    Percent change in selected benefits

The types of benefit information collected include:
•    Health, life, and disability insurances
•    Retirement plans
•    Leave information
•    Legally required benefits (Social Security, Medicare, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance)
•    Overtime, shift, and bonus pay
Examples of current provision details in NCS include the following:
•    Managed care in health insurance
•    Cost sharing arrangements such as typical deductibles and copayments
•    Other health plan information such as coverage for hospitalization, alternatives to hospitalization, mental health, substance abuse treatment, surgical care, and physicians visits
•    Dental, vision, and prescription drug benefits
•    Levels of coverage for life insurance and disability plans
•    Pension plan eligibility, benefit formulas, survivor options, and disability provisions
•    Defined contribution retirement plans: employee and employer contribution rates, investment choices, tax status of employee contributions, and disbursement options
•    Number of vacation days, sick days, and holidays

NCS also produces wage estimates using a statistical procedure that combines survey data collected by the NCS and the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) programs. These Modeled Wage Estimates (MWE) provide annual estimates of average hourly wages for occupations by selected job characteristics and within geographical locations. The job characteristics include bargaining status (union and nonunion), part- and full-time work status, incentive- and time-based pay, and work levels by occupation.
NCS website: https://www.bls.gov/ncs/
NCS submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202006-1220-002 Click on IC List for survey instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation
FR notice inviting public comments: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/03/01/2021-04101/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-for-omb-review-comment-request-national (OMB extended the due date from March 31 to April 5 as BLS did not submit the ICR until March 5.)
Point of contact: Hilery Simpson, Assistant Commissioner, Compensation Levels and Trends of the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, BLS 202-691-5184  simpson.hilery@bls.gov

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