Public Employees More Likely to Have Medical, Retirement

July 22, 2010 ( – State and local government workers are more likely to have both a medical care and retirement plan than their private-sector counterparts, according to a new government report.

About 86% of all state and local public employees have access to both benefits, compared to 60% of private industry workers, according to the National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2009 report. The study was published by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The proportion of workers not having access to either medical coverage or a retirement plan is higher in private industry (22%) than in state and local government (9%), BLS said.

According to the study, the differences in the mix of workers employed by state and local governments and private industry account for much of the difference in medical care and retirement benefit access.

State and local governments employ a higher proportion of managerial, professional and related employees, about 54% of all employees, than do private industry (about 23%).

Among workers from both private industry and state and local government,  managerial, professional, and related employees are more likely to have retirement and medical care plans than other occupational groups—about 80% have access to both types of plans, compared to 66% of natural resource, construction and maintenance workers, 65% of production, transportation and material moving workers, 64% of sales and office workers, and 41% of service workers.

The proportion of production, transportation, and material moving employees in private industry is about three times as great as its proportion in state and local government, BLS said. For natural resources, construction, and maintenance workers, the proportion is about twice as great for private industry as compared with state and local governments

Pay Grade Matters  

Access to both medical care and retirement benefits is greater for workers with high pay, the BLS document indicated. About one in three civilian workers in the lowest 25th percentile of earnings have access to both medical care benefits and a retirement plan, while access to both benefits ranges from 67% to 86% for workers in the highest three quartiles.

For both state and local public workers and private-sector employees, full-time workers are more likely to have access to both retirement and medical care benefits than part-time workers (77% versus 20%), while part-time workers are less likely to have access to either benefit (56% to 9%).

This reflects a general pattern across other benefit categories—paid vacation, paid holidays, paid sick leave, life insurance, short-term disability and long-term disability—where access is much lower for part-time employees, BLS said.

Further, about 89% of civilian workers in jobs covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) have access to both retirement and medical care benefits. The percentage of civilian workers in jobs not covered by a CBA that have access to both benefits is about 59%. The percentage of employees with access to neither benefit is about 5% for jobs covered by an agreement and about 23% for jobs not covered by a CBA.

About 86% of state and local public em­ployees and private-sector workers in establishments with 500 or more workers have access to both medical care and retirement plans, while about 40% of workers in establishments with 1-49 workers have similar access.

About one third of employees in establishments with 1-49 employees do not have access to either retirement or medical care plans, while 7% of employees in establishment with 500 or more employees do not have access to either benefit.

In total, according to BLS, about 64% of both full- and part-time public and private employees in the United States have access to both an employer-sponsored medical care plan and an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

The BLS report is available here