National Compensation Survey

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

On this Page:

  1. What is the NCS?
  2. What is the status of Locality Pay Surveys (LPS)?
  3. What is the role of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Federal pay administration process?
  4. How can an aggregate ECI series be lower, or higher, than all of its component series? For example, the 3-month seasonally adjusted percent change for compensation, civilian workers in March 2012, was 0.4 percent. However, the change for its two components-wages and salaries and benefits-are both 0.5 percent.

Links to Other NCS Products:

  1. NCS wage data? www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/
  2. Data on compensation costs or employment cost trends? www.bls.gov/ncs/ect/
  3. Benefit data? www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/
  4. Work stoppages? www.bls.gov/wsp/

What is the NCS?

The NCS is a BLS establishment survey of employee salaries, wages, and benefits. The survey produces the Employment Cost Index (ECI) as well as the Employment Cost for Employee Compensation (ECEC) along with employee benefit incidence and provision data.

What is the status of Locality Pay Surveys (LPS)?

With the enactment of the Federal Government's 2011 budget, the Locality Pay Survey (LPS) portion of the National Compensation Survey (NCS) was eliminated. A complete set of historical publications on occupational wages for localities, broad geographic regions, and the nation are available. To meet the locality pay requirements of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990, data from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) and NCS programs will be used collaboratively. The OES program will provide wage data by occupation for all localities nationwide with the NCS providing detailed worker characteristics such as work levels, union status, and part time or full time work schedules. The Employment Cost Index (ECI) program will continue to provide detailed worker characteristics such as work level, union status, and part- or full-time work schedule. Together, these two programs allow the BLS to develop wage data by worker characteristics for many occupations and localities. For a history of how BLS occupational wage surveys were used for federal pay comparability, see http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2009/09/art3full.pdf.

What is the role of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Federal pay administration process?

For more than half a century, BLS has supplied data on non-Federal pay from its on-going survey programs to those agencies charged with Federal pay administration. To do this, BLS selects a sample of establishments; collects, reviews, and tabulates wage data; and transmits estimates to the appropriate authority (currently, the Office of Personnel Management) for its use in comparing Federal and private pay. Recommendations about adjustments to Federal pay are the responsibility of the President?s Pay Agent and its advisory group, the Federal Salary Council. For a more detailed description of the Federal pay-setting process and the BLS role, refer to www.opm.gov/flsa/oca/pay/html/UsingBLSData.asp.
A September 2009 article in the Bureau?s Monthly Labor Review, "Fifty years of BLS surveys on Federal employees? pay,? (PDF) describes the changes in the Federal pay adjustment process over the years and how the changes affected the Bureau?s occupational wage survey programs.

How can an aggregate ECI series be lower, or higher, than all of its component series? For example, the 3-month seasonally adjusted percent change for compensation, civilian workers in March 2012, was 0.4 percent. However, the change for its two components-wages and salaries and benefits-are both 0.5 percent.

It is possible for an aggregate series' percent change to fall outside of its component series because the published index numbers, which are used to calculate the percent changes, are rounded (to one decimal place). We do this so that users can replicate our calculations of the published 3-month and 12-month percent changes. This effect is more likely to occur with seasonally adjusted series because of additional rounding that may occur in application of seasonal adjustment factors. In the example noted (March 2012), if the index number for the aggregate series' current reference period (in this case March 2012) was just 0.1 point higher (the smallest increment possible)-116.3 instead of 116.2-the 3-month percent change would round to 0.5 percent, just like its component series.

Last Modified Date: December 17, 2012

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