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Jan 31 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, invites comment to OMB by March 1, 2024 on the proposed extension of the National Compensation Survey. For this request, there are no changes to NCS data collection elements.

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) is a nation-wide, establishment-based survey that provides comprehensive measures of (1) employer costs for employee compensation, including wages and salaries, and benefits, (2) compensation trends, and (3) the incidence of employer-sponsored benefits among workers. The NCS also collects data and produces estimates on the provisions of selected employer-sponsored benefit plans.

NCS captures worker earnings and benefit cost and provision information in five major benefit categories:

-- Paid Leave – Vacation, holiday, sick, and personal leave
-- Supplemental Pay – Overtime and premium, shift differentials, and nonproduction bonuses
-- Insurance – Life, health, short-term and long-term disability
-- Retirement and Savings – Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution plans
-- Legally Required Benefits – Social Security, Medicare, federal and state unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance

The NCS produces:

-- Indexes measuring change over time in labor costs through the Employment Cost Index (ECI), Principal Federal Economic Indicator (PFEI). The ECI is a modified Laspeyres index which reflects the change in labor costs over time, free from the influence of employment shifts among occupations and industries. The ECI calculates indexes of total compensation, wages and salaries, and benefits separately for all civilian workers in the United States, for private industry workers, and for workers in state and local government.
-- The level of average costs per hour worked through the Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC).
-- Estimates on the incidence of benefits by the percentage of workers with access to and participating in employer-sponsored benefit plans in the publication of the Employee Benefits in the United States.
-- Details of employer-provided health and retirement plan provisions are also available in the Health and Retirement Plan Provision publications. Provisions of benefit plans include items such as eligibility requirements (e.g., age, service, and combination of age and service), vesting requirements (e.g., cliff, graded, and immediate), plan type (e.g., savings and thrift, money purchase plan), additional employee costs (e.g., out-of-pocket maximum, deductible, copayment, and coinsurance). Note: much of the provision details are gathered through plan documents provided by employers, not through interviewing respondents.

Additionally, NCS and the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program collaboratively produce Modeled Wage Estimates (MWE) and data of level of work for use by the President’s Pay Agent:

-- Modeled Wage Estimates (MWE) – MWE data consists of national annual occupational wage data that uses OEWS on wage data by occupation and by area and NCS data on grade level. 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.
-- Data for President’s Pay Agent – Data by level of work for use by the President's Pay Agent meets the requirements of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA). FEPCA established locality pay and the President’s Pay Agent designated locality pay areas based on OMB statistical area definitions. The President’s Pay Agent advises the President on the issues of federal pay.

Survey Design Overview – The NCS is designed to be a national representative survey of private industry and state and local government establishments from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The following workers from the civilian economy are excluded from the NCS: those employed in federal government and quasi-federal agencies, military personnel, agricultural workers, volunteers, unpaid workers, individuals receiving long-term disability compensation, and those working overseas. In addition, private industry excludes workers in private households, the self-employed, workers who set their own pay (e.g., proprietors, owners, major stockholders, and partners in unincorporated firms), and family members paid token wages.

The NCS sampling frame is developed from state unemployment insurance reports, available through the BLS’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program, and railroad establishment information provided from BLS’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program. Survey data are collected from national probability samples selected in two stages: probability sample of establishments and probability sample of occupations within sampled establishments. See Part B for complete details. Note: As of 2022, the BLS began collecting with an increased sample to mitigate the impact of decreasing response rates. Prior to this change, two private sample groups set to rotate out of the survey remained for an additional year each; their retention enabled the BLS to calculate estimates on four rotation groups simultaneously, rather than three. The BLS may have to employ this technique in the future, depending on response levels.

General Collection Methods – The NCS collects data on both wages and employee benefits for selected jobs at sampled establishments. These data include the incidence, costs, and provisions of the employer-provided benefits. The BLS updates the wage and benefit cost data quarterly. Updating this information allows for the publication of change in the cost of wages, benefits, and total compensation on a quarterly basis as a measure of labor market inflation.

The NCS employs probability methods for selection of occupations, which 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 collects earnings and work level data on occupations for the nation. The NCS also collects information on the cost, provisions, and incidence of major employee benefits through its benefit cost and benefit provision publications.

The BLS has been using a revised approach to the Locality Pay Survey (LPS) component of the NCS; this uses data from two current BLS programs—the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey and the NCS program. This approach uses OEWS data to provide wage data by occupation and by area, while NCS data are used to specify grade level effects. This approach is also being used to extend the estimation of pay gaps to areas that were not included in the prior Locality Pay Survey sample, and these data have been delivered to the Pay Agent (in 2023, data for 115 areas were delivered).

The NCS has a national survey design. The NCS private industry sample is on a three-year rotational cycle, with one frozen sample year every ten years for the NCS private industry sample when a new NCS State and local government sample starts (approximately in 2025).

The NCS continues to provide employee benefit provision and participation data. These data include estimates of how many workers receive the various employer-sponsored benefits. The data also include information about the common provisions of benefit plans.

NCS collection will use a number of collection forms having unique private industry and government initiation and update collection forms and versions. For NCS update collection, the forms or screens give respondents their previously reported information, the dates they expected change to occur to these data, and space for reporting these changes.

For electronic collection, the NCS uses a Web-based system (Web-Lite) that allows NCS respondents, using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption and the establishment's schedule number, to upload data files to a secure BLS server that forwards those files to the assigned BLS field economist.

Some benefits, called “Other benefits,” data are collected to track the emergence of new or changing benefits over time. The BLS only asks whether sampled occupations receive these benefits and periodically modifies this list.

NCS: https://www.bls.gov/ocs/home.htm
BLS submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202310-1220-004 Click IC List for information collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-01894

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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