Sixty-six percent of workers in private industry and 90% in state and local government jobs had access to retirement benefits in March, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released this week. Of those individuals with access to retirement benefits, 49% in private industry and 81% in state and local government actually participated in their workplace plans in March.

Employer-sponsored retirement benefits were available to 31% of the lowest wage earners in private industry in March, but only 12% participated, in comparison to 88% of workers in the highest wage category having access to plans and 78% participating.

The BLS also found that 61% of state and local government workers in the lowest wage category had access to retirement benefits, but only 54% participated, compared to 98% of workers in the highest wage category, with 89% participating.

Full-time workers in state and local government had high rates of access to major benefits, with 99% who had access to retirement and medical care benefits and 98% with paid sick leave. Thirty-nine percent of part-time workers also had access to retirement benefits, while 24% had access to medical benefits and 42% had access to paid sick leave, the BLS reported.

The job you hold also makes a difference in the type of benefits you have access to. In private industry, 80% of workers in management, professional and related occupations had access to retirement plans, with 67% of those participating. In state and local government, 92% of management, professional and related had access to retirement benefits, with 82% participating.

In private industry, 39% of service workers had access to retirement benefits, but only 22% participated, compared to 85% of service workers in state and local government workers who have access. Only 77% of these workers participated in their employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Union membership also helped determine how many people had access to retirement benefits. The BLS reported that 92% of private workers who belonged to a union had access to retirement benefits in March, compared to 63% of those who were nonunion. In state and local government, 97% of union and 84% of nonunion had access to retirement plans at work.

Eighty-nine percent of workers at private companies with more than 500 employees had access to workplace retirement plans, with 76% participating. Only 51% of workers at companies with between one and 99 employees had access to a workplace retirement plan. Of those, only 35% participated in the plan.

Workers in the Midwest were much more likely to have access to retirement benefits than those in the South, Northeast or West. Seventy percent of private industry in the Midwest offered retirement benefits to their employees. Private companies in the West were much less likely to offer their employees retirement benefits, according to BLS data, with only 60% of companies offering benefits.

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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