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July 2011, Vol. 134, No. 7
Tackling complexity in retirement benefits: challenges and directions for the NCS
Keenan Dworak-Fisher and William J. Wiatrowski
Keenan Dworak-Fisher and William J. Wiatrowski are economists in the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the retirement benefits landscape has become more complex, it has become more challenging for the National Compensation Survey to capture it comprehensively; the data presented in this article indicate that the current NCS statistics are still very useful but identify some areas in which improvements could be made
Retirement benefits have long been a prominent component of compensation in America. In 1986, they composed 3.8 percent of all compensation paid to private industry workers,1 and this percentage has remained relatively stable through the decades: in December 2009, contributions to retirement were 3.4 percent.2 Yet, beneath this relative stability in compensation share, the retirement benefits landscape has undergone many changes, bringing increased diversity and complexity to the underlying offerings. The BLS National Compensation Survey (NCS) has tried to keep up with this evolution by making appropriate changes as time has gone along, and for the most part it has been successful. But this process entails tradeoffs between continuity and responsiveness, so challenges to accurate reporting will always remain.
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1 "Employer Costs for Employee Compensation," Compensation and Working Conditions, summer 1997, pp. 112–17, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/ecec_031986.pdf (visited June 29, 2011); see table f-1 on p. 113.
2 Employer Costs for Employee Compensation — December 2009, USDL 10–0283 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), Mar. 10, 2010, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/ecec_03102010.pdf (visited June 30, 2011); see table 5 on pp. 10–11.
National Compensation Survey
401(k) plans move away from employer stock as investment vehicle.—Nov. 2008.
Employer generosity in employer-matched 401(k) plans, 2002-03.—Sept. 2007.
Trends in retirement plan coverage over the last decade.—Feb. 2006.
New statistics for health insurance from the National Compensation Survey—Aug. 2004.
Defining participation in defined contribution pension plans—Aug. 2003.
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