Little Change in Comp Costs from Prior Quarter

October 28, 2005 ( - Total compensation costs remained virtually unchanged in the June to September period over the prior quarter, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment Cost Index data showed a 0.8% increase during the period.

The BLS said that benefit costs between June and September, which rose 1.3%, continued to outpace the gain in wages and salaries of 0.6%.  Increases in benefit costs accounted for over 40% of the increase in compensation costs for civilian workers from June to September 2005. 

Among private industry workers, benefit costs contributed a third of compensation gains during the quarter, relatively the same as the 35% reported for the March to June period. 

Among state and local government workers, benefit costs accounted for nearly one-half of compensation cost gains during the June to September period, the same as in the prior quarter.  Health insurance costs and defined benefit contributions each represented approximately one-fifth of the gain, the BLS data showed.

Compensation costs for the private sector rose 0.8% during the quarter, compared to a 0.6% gain in the prior quarter.  For state and local government workers, compensation costs rose 1.1%, a jump from the gain of 0.7% for the quarter ended in June. 

Benefit costs advanced 1.3% for both civillian and private industry workers in the September 2005 quarter, following gains of 0.8% each for the June quarter. Meanwhile, benefit costs for state and local government workers increased 1.7%, compared with a 1.2% gain in the prior quarter.

The Employment Cost Index (ECI), a component of the National Compensation Survey, measures quarterly changes in compensation costs, which include wages, salaries, and employer costs for employee benefits for civilian workers.

The BLS pointed out that, though the survey response rates were lower than usual in the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, data from the nonresponding establishments accounted for less than one percent of the overall sample and had no tangible effects on the estimate.