85% of Workers with Plan Access are Retirement Savers

August 25, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The lion's share of US workers who had access to a retirement plan in March 2006 participated in a defined benefit or defined contribution program or both, new government data shows.

A new statistical bulletin from the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) about the extent and use of private-sector employee benefits showed that 85% of US workers were active retirement plan savers – if their employer offered that benefit.

Six in 10 workers had such retirement plan access, the BLS said, with 51% registered for a DC or DB plan.Fifty-four percent of workers had access to defined contributionplans, and 43% participated. Virtually all workers with access to defined benefit plans got in them, while just under eight in 10 (79%) of those with DC plan access signed up.

Also, according to the BLS:

  • workers in goods-producing industries enjoyed higher rates of access to retirement, health care, life insurance, and short-term disability benefits than did workers in service-producing industries.
  • workers in medium-sized and large private establishments (100 employees or more) enjoyed higher rates of access to retirement, health care, and disability benefits than their counterparts in small establishments.
  • almost three times as many offered defined benefit retirement plans in the Middle Atlantic as did so in the East South Central part of the country.
  • access to defined contribution retirement and to life insurance was similar in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. Rates of access to nearly all other benefits were higher for workers in metropolitan areas.
  • those in occupations averaging $15 an hour or more chose to participate in defined contribution retirement plans in greater proportions than those in occupations averaging under $15 an hour; the rates were 85% and 71%, respectively.

Other Benefits

Focusing on other benefits, the BLS data showed that white-collar workers had greater access to stock option plans than workers in the other two occupational groups. Eleven-percent of white-collar workers had access to this benefit, compared with 6% of blue-collar workers and only 3% of workers in service occupations. Full-time workers were also more likely than part-time workers to have access to stock options. Full-time workers had greater access to bonuses of most types than part-time workers had.

Health Savings Accounts are available to 6% of workers, although they are offered more often to white-collar workers, full-time workers, and those in occupations with average hourly earnings of $15 or higher. Workers in medium-sized and large establishments also had greater access to health savings accounts than the other employee groups.

Paid leave was the most commonly provided employee benefit in the private sector: paid holidays were available to 76% of employees and paid vacations were available to 77%.

Meanwhile, more than six in 10 (62%) of private establishments offered health insurance to their workers in March 2006.Most employees covered by medical care plans were in plans requiring employee contributions for both

single coverage and family coverage.

Workers were asked to kick in on average $296.88 per month for family coverage and $76.05 per month for single coverage, while company health premiums averaged $266.50 a month per participant for single coverage and $617.18 for family coverage.

Just over half (52%) of workers had life insurance access; 50%, participated. Short- and long-term disability benefits were available to 39% and 30% of workers, respectively, and nearly all participated.

Differences by Group

According to the government, access to and participation in benefit plans varied by occupational group, full- and part-time work schedule, union status, and earnings. For example, workers in white-collar jobs were more likely to participate in defined contribution retirement plans than were service workers. Unionworkers had higher rates of coverage for most benefits.

Paid leave benefits (vacations, holidays, and the like) were commonly available to workers, but were reported less frequently for part-time and service workers. Paid sick leave, in particular, was less common among part-time workers.

The incidence of employee benefits varied for full- and part-time employees. In particular, access to life insurance was almost five times greater, and to medical care, almost four times greater, for full-time than for part-time workers.

Finally, union workers generally enjoyed greater access to benefits. The rate of access to defined benefit retirement plans was nearly five times higher among union than nonunion workers.

The BLS report is here .