PRESS RELEASE: Job Losses Cause Workers' Compensation Coverage and Costs to Fall

For Immediate Release: August 16, 2011

Contact: Jill Braunstein at (202) 452-8097

WASHINGTON, DC–The number of workers covered by workers’ compensation dropped by 4.4 percent in 2009, the biggest decrease in two decades, according to a report released today by the National Academy of Social Insurance.  Employer costs for benefits fell by 7.6 percent to $73.9 billion in 2009 (the most recent year with complete data), reflecting the overall decline in employment.

"As one might expect, when the Great Recession hit, employers paid less in workers’ compensation costs because there were fewer workers to cover,” said John F. Burton, Jr., chair of the panel that oversees the report. “Although the drop in employer costs represents the biggest decrease in the last two decades, benefits increased slightly by 0.4 percent to $58.3 billion, reflecting in part benefits provided in 2009 to workers injured in prior years."

Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2009
Aggregate Amounts
Change in Percent 
Covered workers (in millions)
Covered wages (in billions)
Workers' compensation benefits paid (in billions)
     Medical benefits
     Cash benefits 29.4 1.9
Share of medical benefits in total 50% -1.5
Employer costs (in billions) $73.9 -7.6
Amount per $100 of Covered Wages
Change in Amount
Benefits paid
    Medical payments
    Cash payments to workers
Employer costs
Source: National Academy of Social Insurance, 2011.

The total benefits paid to injured workers in 2009 increased in 23 states and the District of Columbia while declining in the remaining 27 states, compared to the previous year. Payments for medical care declined for the first time in a decade by 1.1 percent to $28.9 billion, although they continue to make up roughly half of total workers’ compensation benefits. Employers paid a total of $73.9 billion nationwide for workers’ compensation with a cost of $1.30 per $100 of payroll, the lowest in the last thirty years.

The new report, Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage and Costs, 2009, is the fourteenth in the series which provides the only comprehensive data on workers’ compensation benefits for the nation, the states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs.

Press releases highlighting specific findings for the states of California, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington are also available.

NOTE TO REPORTERS AND EDITORS:  For a copy of the printed report, media can contact Jill Braunstein at (202) 452-8097 or by e-mail at All others should contact Ishita Sengupta at


Ishita Sengupta
National Academy of 
Social Insurance
(202) 452-8097

Virginia Reno
National Academy of
Social Insurance
(202) 452-8097

John F. Burton, Jr.
Rutgers University and
Cornell University
(732) 274-0600


The National Academy of Social Insurance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation's leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to promote understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security and a vibrant economy.