by Nicholas Dobbins

As you know, when job-hunting, money talks.  Salary is often the first thing we consider when researching potential careers, and it’s often the primary measure by which we gauge our own jobs. But there are other types of compensation that can be just as important as wages. In addition to base pay, employers can offer any of a wide variety of benefits, ranging from health insurance and retirement benefits to tuition reimbursement, paid holidays, on-site child care, and other incentives.  While we may not pay as much attention to these benefits as we do to salary, they are an important part of the overall compensation package, and can affect your quality of life.


What are Typical Employer-Provided Benefits?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes data annually on the access to (and participation in) employer provided benefits in the United States. The most recent benefits release, from July of 2011, can be found here. Nationally, medical benefits are the most commonly available benefit (see the chart below). 

U.S. Benefits Graphic

*Includes civilian workers in the private nonfarm economy except those in private households, and workers in the public sector, except the federal government. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2011


Benefits in Minnesota

A similar study on employer benefits is performed here in Minnesota. The study provides information on employee benefits offered by private sector firms in Minnesota, and like the annual national survey, it contains useful information on the types of benefits packages a worker might expect to be offered.  For instance, in Minnesota, just over half of surveyed firms offer medical insurance to their full-time employees, yet only 29 percent offer dental coverage to the same employees.


Both the national and statewide studies agree that not only are employees of large firms more likely to receive employer-provided benefits, but in general, full-time workers are more likely to have access to benefits than part-time workers, and workers in the public sector tend to have more access than those in the private sector.


Negotiate Benefits

Benefits are often a great way for employers to entice workers to join their firms, or to stay once they’ve been hired.  Because of their bulk buying power and ability to spread risk (especially for large organizations), it’s often the case that employers can offer benefits like health care for less than the employee could purchase them on their own, creating an efficiency that serves both the employer and the employee.  If you’re considering a job you’ve been offered, don’t forget to evaluate your benefits. Negotiating improved benefits may be more effective than negotiating for a higher salary, but the end result—an overall better compensation package—can benefit you just the same.


Nick Dobbins ( is a Research Analyst at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development


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