Workplace satisfaction: Industries with the best (and worst) benefits package



U.S. unemployment remains at its lowest point in over a decade. A healthy economy in general spells good things for businesses, but one byproduct of this for employers is a smaller talent pool, and greater competition among companies to attract candidates. Employers can attempt to woo workers through higher salaries, but sometimes an enticing benefits package will do the trick.
Companies can offer many different perks and benefits but the most common benefits include health insurance, retirement plan contributions, paid vacation and sick leave, profit sharing, and tuition assistance or reimbursement.
Depending on the industry, certain benefits are widespread, or nearly nonexistent. For example, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, 29.3% of private-sector workers have access to profit sharing or stock options at their company. Among information workers, 58.2% have access to profit sharing, compared to just 3.1% of workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry.
Based on this Census Bureau data, 24/7 Wall Street constructed an index ranking each of the 18 major industries based on access to benefits.
Providing higher salaries and more benefits serve the same purpose for employers — attracting and retaining top talent. Often, in more competitive industries, workers tend to receive more of both. Each of the five industries with the highest benefit coverage rates has a higher average income than the annual average of $53,515 across all private sector jobs. In utilities, the industry with the most widespread benefit coverage, the average private sector worker earns $102,868 a year. At the other end of the spectrum, construction is the only one of five industries with the worst benefits that has a higher-than-typical average annual wage.
A comprehensive benefits package can be tremendously beneficial to private-sector workers — but also expensive for employers. This is one reason for the rise of labor unions. Labor unions serve to increase the collective bargaining power of their members to negotiate for more favorable pay and benefit packages. Indeed, often times the industries with the best benefits also have relatively high unionization rates.
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For example, 25% of all workers in the utilities industry are union members, well above the 10.7% unionization rate across all jobs. Utilities workers also happen to be relatively well paid and report the best benefit coverage of any industry on this list. However, high union membership rates do not always guarantee the best benefits. In construction, for example, an industry reporting generally worse than typical benefit coverage, 14.0% of private sector workers are unionized, more than double the 6.5% private sector unionization rate across all industries.
Union membership is also by no means a precondition for good benefits. Many of the industries with the best benefit coverage also have relatively low unionization rates.
In industries where a large share of workers are their own employees, benefits can still be provided — for example, those who are self-employed and own a business can deduct health insurance on their tax returns — but unlike at a major company, there is no group of employees to demand these benefits.
The agriculture industry has the lowest benefits coverage rate of the major industries. Among farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers, more than 85% are self-employed, by far the highest share of any occupation.

18. Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 61.1%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 58.1%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 25.5%
  • Avg. annual pay: $33,287
Those Americans who are employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting are the least likely to receive any of the major categories of benefits, which include employer contributions to retirement plans, health insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, profit sharing, and tuition assistance. More than one in every four workers in the industry do not have a single one of these benefits, which is the highest share of workers without benefits of any sector. For comparison, only about 10% private-sector workers lack every major form of benefit.

17. Accommodation and food services

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 66.2%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 60.9%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 25.2%
  • Avg. annual pay: $20,032
Americans service industry worker jobs are among the least likely to receive benefits. Only about 66% of workers in the sector receive paid time off for sick days or vacation days, and just 61% have access to health care benefits through their employer. In comparison, 84% of private sector workers across all industries can take a sick day or vacation day without being docked wage or salary, and 78% have employer-sponsored health coverage. About one in every four workers in the sector receive no benefits beyond wages.
Service industry jobs are not only characterized by few benefits, but also low wages. The average annual pay for workers in the accommodation and food services sector is just $20,032, by far the least of any job category on this list.

16. Arts, entertainment and recreation

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 74.5%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 70.9%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 17.5%
  • Avg. annual pay: $36,806
The arts, entertainment and recreation sector covers a range of occupations, including performing arts, sports, museum workers, amusement park attendants and gaming workers. The sector is one of only three on this list in which fewer than half of all workers have access to employer-sponsored retirement benefits, like a 401(k) matching program. It is also one of only three industries for which fewer than three-quarters of all workers can take a paid vacation or sick day.

15. Construction

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 79.1%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 69.8%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 13.8%
  • Avg. annual pay: $58,647
The average annual pay in the construction industry is $58,647, slightly higher than the national annual salary of $53,515. While construction workers may get paid slightly more than the typical American, those working in the industry are among the least likely to receive any benefits. For example, less than 70% of construction workers have access to employer-provided health insurance, compared to the 78% of private sector workers who do. Similarly, less than 20% of industry workers have access to whole or partial tuition assistance from their employers, compared to 36% of workers across all industries.

14. Educational services

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 75.8%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 72.0%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 17.1%
  • Avg. annual pay: $48,757
The educational services sector covers a range of occupations, from teachers and administrators to librarians and teaching assistants. The share of workers in the sector with benefits is slightly smaller than typical. For example, just 75.8% of private sector educational services workers benefit from paid vacation and sick days compared to 83.8% of private sector workers across all industries. Additionally, just 72.0% of sector workers have access to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, compared to 78.0% of all non-government workers.
However, few education workers lack benefits altogether. Over half of all workers in the sector have access to some form of tuition assistance or reimbursement, well above the 36.2% share of all private sector workers.

13. Real estate and rental and leasing

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 81.6%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 74.5%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 12.6%
  • Avg. annual pay: $54,965
Real estate, rental and leasing agents are less likely to receive comprehensive benefits than private sector workers in most other industries. Just 53.6% of the sector’s workers benefit from access to employer-sponsored retirement savings programs, like 401(k), compared to 60.7% of all private sector workers. In other areas, real estate and rental and leasing agents only slightly trail the average across all sectors. For example, 81.6% of industry workers can take a vacation day or sick day without losing a day’s wages compared to 83.8% of all non-government workers. Similarly, 12.6% of all real estate and rental workers receive no benefits at all compared to 11.1% of all private sector workers.
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12. Retail trade

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 84.1%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 77.5%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 11.9%
  • Avg. annual pay: $30,299
Employment in the retail sector is rarely coveted work. Employees tend to work inconvenient and long shifts, including on major holidays, and often must deal with unpleasant customers. They also tend to be paid relatively poorly. The average annual pay for a retail worker is just $30,299, which is well below the average pay across all jobs of $53,515. Retail jobs are also less likely to provide workers with certain benefits. Compared to the private sector as a whole, retail workers are slightly less likely to receive health insurance and tuition assistance. Also, 11.9% of retail workers receive no benefits at all, compared to the 11.1% of workers who do across all sectors.

11. Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 85.3%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 82%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 9.0%
  • Avg. annual pay: $37,989.00
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services is a broad sector category that includes office administrative support and private sector waste collection and remediation. Many of these employees are public sector workers — a group that tends to receive more benefits — but even in the private sector, benefit coverage is relatively comprehensive. For example, 82.0% of all industry workers have access to employer-sponsored health care, and 85.3% receive paid time off, compared to the average of 78.0% and 83.8%, respectively, among all private sector workers.

10. Health care and social assistance

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 87.1%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 78.0%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 7.7%
  • Avg. annual pay: $47,956
By most measures, benefits for those working in the health care and social assistance industry are as good or better than the average across the private sector. The 61.8% share of sector workers who can take advantage of an employer-sponsored retirement savings program and the 78.0% of workers with employer-sponsored health insurance are each in line with the comparable shares across all industries. Meanwhile, 87.1% of workers in health care and social assistance who receive paid time off benefits, is considerably higher than the 83.8% of workers across all sectors. Additionally, about 45% of health care and social assistance workers are eligible for some form of tuition assistance or reimbursement, compared to just 36% of all private sector workers.

9. Transportation and warehousing

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 87.4%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 82.6%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 9.1%
  • Avg. annual pay: $50,459
One of the primary purposes of unions is to help workers gain access to key benefits. In the transportation and warehousing industry, 23.8% of workers are union members, well above the 10.7% national unionization share. While many of the industry’s union workers are likely in the public sector, the industry’s private sector workers also are more likely to have access to certain benefits. Among private sector transportation and warehousing workers, 87.4% have paid holidays, vacation, or sick leave, and 67.0% have retirement plans with employers contributions, compared to the national private sector average for these benefits of 83.8% and 60.7%, respectively.

8. Professional, scientific and technical services

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 87.1%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 82.8%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 7.2%
  • Avg. annual pay: $90,972
Professional, scientific and technical services workers are paid an average of nearly $91,000 annually, much higher than the national private sector average annual pay of $53,515. On the whole, industries with higher-paying jobs also tend to dole out more benefits, and a higher share of private-sector workers in the professional, scientific and technical services industry receive each of the five major types of benefits, compared to all private sector workers.

7. Wholesale trade

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 90.6%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 87.1%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 5.3%
  • Avg. annual pay: $73,710
The wholesale trade sector primarily consists of occupations dealing in wholesale of agricultural produce, mined materials, manufactured goods and published materials. In general, workers in the industry are far more likely to receive benefits than workers in most other private sector industries. For example, 87.1% of those in wholesale trade have access to employer-sponsored healthcare compared to 78.0% of all private sector workers. Additionally, 90.6% of wholesale trade workers have paid time off compared to 83.8% of all non-government workers.
Strong union representation in certain sectors often translates to better benefits. However, a larger-than-typical share of wholesale traders report having benefits despite lower than average union participation. Just 4.4% of workers in the sector are union members compared to 10.7% of all workers.

6. Mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 89.3%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 88.8%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 6.5%
  • Avg. annual pay: $102,988
Higher-paying industries typically offer a greater range of benefits to more workers, and with an average annual wage of about $103,000, the mining, quarrying, and gas extraction industry is no exception. The sector reports more comprehensive benefits coverage than is typical in every major category. Just 6.5% of private sector mining and extraction workers report no employer-sponsored benefits, well below the comparable 11.1% share across all industries in the private sector.
Strong union participation can increase the likelihood of widespread benefit coverage in a given industry. However, just 4.4% of mining and extraction workers are union members, fewer than the 10.7% of all workers.

5. Manufacturing

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 93.0%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 88.9%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 4.6%
  • Avg. annual pay: $64,870
The U.S. manufacturing industry was once heavily unionized. Almost 40% of private-sector manufacturing workers were union members in 1973. Today, just 9.1% of those employed in manufacturing in the private sector are union members. However, some of the benefits manufacturing unions were able to secure remain in place. For example, 93% of private-sector manufacturing employees have paid vacation or sick leave, the second highest share of any sector. Also, just 4.6% of those workers lack each of the five major forms of benefits, less than half the share for the private sector as a whole.

4. Finance and insurance

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 92.0%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 89.1%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 5.2%
  • Avg. annual pay: $101,210
Benefits are a form of compensation, and industries that compensate a larger share of workers with more benefits also tend to pay higher wages. In the finance and insurance industry, the average annual pay is $101,210, close to double the national annual average wage for the private sector. Private sector finance workers are also more likely to receive various benefits than to the typical non-government worker.
In industries where companies can benefit from advancing the skills of their employees, they are likely more willing to pay for related education. In the finance sector, 63.1% of workers have access to some form of tuition assistance or reimbursement, compared to 36.2% of all private sector workers.

3. Information

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 92.1%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 91.1%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 5.7%
  • Avg. annual pay: $98,458
Information is a broad industry category covering occupations in a range of fields, including film, publishing, software, telecommunications, and data processing. Workers in the industry are among the most likely in the private sector to report comprehensive benefit coverage. Some 58.5% of industry workers report some form of employer-sponsored tuition assistance or reimbursement program, a significantly higher share than the average nationwide. Additionally, the industry is one of only three in the private sector in which more than 90% of workers are offered employer-sponsored health care as well as paid vacation and sick days. Notably, 58.2% of industry workers also benefit from a profit sharing or stock option program, the largest share of any private industry.

2. Management of companies and enterprises

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 93.0%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 92.8%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 4.4%
  • Avg. annual pay: $115,325
Management positions span all industries. Such jobs generally come with a relatively high level of responsibility, high pay, and good benefits. The typical private sector manager earns $115,325 a year, more than double the average pay across all private sector jobs. Managers are rarely without comprehensive benefits. Some 93.0% of managers receive paid time off and 92.8% have access to company-sponsored health insurance. Additionally, the management sector is one of only two in which over half of all workers can take advantage of stock options or profit sharing programs. Just 4.4% of private sector managers work receive no major benefits, the smallest share of any sector.

1. Utilities

  • Share of workers with paid time off: 94.2%
  • Share of workers with health insurance: 91.5%
  • Share of workers with no major benefits: 4.9%
  • Avg. annual pay: $102,868
Employers in the utilities sector, which includes power generation and distribution, provide the most widespread benefits coverage of any major industry. Private sector utilities employees have the highest or second highest recipiency rates in four of the five major benefit categories. In the industry, 73.4% of workers can take advantage of tuition assistance and 87.9% have access to a retirement program with employer matching, compared to private sector shares of 36.2% and 60.7%, respectively. Over 95% of workers in the industry have at least one of the five major types of benefits, which include profit sharing and retirement plan contribution, as well as tuition assistance, paid holidays, and health insurance.
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