© Copyright 2000 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning

Employee Benefits Survey: Compensation Revisited
by: Carola Cowan , Economist

"Total compensation is made up of 79.0 percent wages and salaries and 21.0 percent benefits."

T he Employee Benefits Survey found that the amount and type of benefits employees receive depend on industry, company size, geographic location and whether the employees work full-time or part-time. Last year, the Research & Planning (R&P) Section of the Wyoming Department of Employment conducted an employee benefits survey on a pilot basis. 1  This year, R&P redesigned the survey, to collect information on a quarterly basis and to eventually identify trends in benefit costs. This article reports data for the first quarter 2000 only. The first quarter’s overall sample size creates limitations for estimates that will be overcome when all four quarters of data are available. At that time, we should have more comprehensive findings, based on approximately 1,000 employers reporting. Thanks to the 237 employers who participated in the first quarterly survey and helped us make it a success!

This survey complements the wage survey R&P conducts on an annual basis and assists employers and employees in determining whether they are providing and receiving competitive compensation (wages and benefits).2  Benefits such as health insurance, paid leave and a retirement plan can be a large part of an employee’s compensation package and employers' costs, and have gained importance in recent years. Therefore, wage information alone does not give the full picture of the total compensation value. It also makes it difficult to make meaningful comparisons between different jobs, since receiving a smaller wage may very well be offset by a more generous benefits package.


Table 1 shows the percent of Wyoming companies providing selected benefits to their employees. The top five benefits offered by companies for full-time employees were paid vacation, health insurance, paid holiday leave, dependent health insurance and paid jury duty leave. For part-time employees, a Christmas bonus was the most common benefit followed by paid jury duty leave, employee discount, retirement plan and paid vacation. The benefits offered the least for both employee categories were child care, paid maternity leave and paid paternity leave. For example, 82.2 percent of companies reported they offered paid vacation to their full-time employees, but only 5.7 percent stated they offered paid maternity leave to these same employees. In last year’s survey, health insurance was also in the top five benefits provided and maternity leave, paternity leave and child care ranked on the bottom. Of the companies responding, only 6.2 percent did not provide any kind of benefits to full-time employees and 18.1 percent did not provide any kind of benefits to part-time employees.

Analyzing benefits paid by companies to employees by industry reveals that employers in Public Administration and Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE) were the most likely to pay benefits. Employers in Construction and Retail Trade were the least likely to provide benefits (see Table 2). For example, 100 percent of companies in Public Administration offered paid holidays to full-time employees, but only 9.5 percent of companies in Construction offered this benefit to their full-time employees. Last year’s analysis showed that employees in Public Administration and Mining were the most likely to receive benefits and employers in Agriculture and Retail Trade were the least likely to provide benefits.

A look at benefits and firm size shows a significant correlation between the two. For full-time employees, the correlation was significant in all areas except for maternity and paternity leave, child care, employee discounts and tool allowance. For part-time employees, the correlation was significant for paid holidays, paid funeral and bereavement leave, paid jury duty leave, health insurance, dependent health insurance, dental plan, life insurance, retirement plan and wellness program. Companies with 100 or more employees all offered health insurance to their full-time employees. In contrast, only 27.3 percent of part-time employees working for a company that size received this benefit (see Table 3). We found the same correlation in last year’s benefit survey.

The regional analysis (see Map for regions) shows no strong correlation between the region and the benefits paid. Though overall, we can conclude that full-time employees who worked for companies located statewide or in the Southwest were more likely to receive benefits.3 For example, 86.8 percent of statewide companies offer health insurance to full-time employees compared to the Southwest (77.5%), Central (73.3%), Northeast (72.4%), Southeast (70.0%) and Northwest (63.2%) regions (see Table 4). This may be partially explained by the fact that almost half of the companies that are located statewide have 100 or more employees. There were also more companies with more than 100 employees located in the Southwest region than in other regions. As seen earlier, larger companies are more likely to provide benefits. Comparisons to last year cannot be made, since we did not analyze the data by region.

Another way to distinguish between the frequency of benefits offered is by full-time or part-time status. Not surprisingly, full-time employees were much more likely to receive benefits than are part-time employees. For example, 73.5 percent of companies gave full-time employees paid holidays, but only 16.8 percent of companies gave paid holidays to part-time employees (see Table 1).

How much paid time off companies gave their employees also depends on full-time or part-time status, with full-time employees receiving an average 12 days of paid sick leave a year, while part-time employees received only half that number (see Table 5).

What percentage of benefit costs did employers pay? Here the dependence on the full-time and part-time status of the employee is less important. Most commonly, for health insurance and dental plans, 100 percent of benefits were paid by the employer. If we look at the average percentage paid by the employer for health insurance and dental plans, part-time employees got slightly less than full-time employees (see Table 6).

How much did employers spend on benefits as a percentage of total compensation? Our survey shows that 21.0 percent of total compensation went to paying benefits. This is close to the estimated amount of 21.4 percent in South Dakota, but lower than the 27.5 percent the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported for the United States as a whole.4 In our survey, employers broke out compensation by wages and salaries, costs for retirement plans, legally required benefits such as Social Security and Worker’s Compensation and all other benefits. Figure 1 illustrates the breakout by percentage of total compensation for these different benefit groups.

Data Collection

A stratified random sample of 400 companies was selected to receive this survey. The sample was drawn from the Quarterly Unemployment Insurance (QUI) employer database for the second quarter 1999. This database contains the data reported by employers on a quarterly basis for Unemployment Insurance purposes. Companies that reported zero employees for all three months were excluded from the database and not included in our sample. To the remaining database of 15,601, we added the following data fields: average employment, class size, industry by major division and region. We then selected a random sample stratified by class size, industry and region.

Overall, 59.3 percent of the companies surveyed responded. In order to test the consistency of the distribution by class size, industry and region of our responses with the distribution of our sample, we ran a chi-square test. The significance of the chi-square value was .899 by class size, .780 by industry and .502 by region. Therefore, the likelihood is high that our distribution matches the overall distribution by class size, industry and region.


Although the small sample size creates limitations, we determined that companies were more likely to provide benefits to full-time employees than to part-time employees. The larger the company, the more likely it is to offer benefits to its employees. There was also a relationship between benefits and industry. A higher percentage of employers in Public Administration and FIRE offered benefits than other industries. Construction and Retail Trade offered the fewest benefits to their employees. The regional analysis showed that employers with locations statewide or companies located in the Southeast were more likely to pay benefits. In Wyoming, total compensation was made up of 79.0 percent wages and salaries and 21.0 percent benefits.

Overall, the redesigned version of the Employer Benefits Survey was successful. Watch for survey updates in future Trends.

1 Employee Benefits Survey: A Pilot Study for Wyoming, Research & Planning, Wyoming Department of Employment, July 1999.
2 Wyoming Wage Survey, Research & Planning, Wyoming Department of Employment, January 2000.
3 Statewide refers to companies that have locations in more than one county.
4 Laura Goehring, “How Valuable are South Dakota Employees’ Benefits,” South Dakota Labor Bulletin, September 1999; Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employer Costs for Employee Compensation-March 1999,” News Release, June 24, 1999.

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