WASHINGTON, D.C. – Workers’ compensation benefits declined to $57.5 billion in 2010, according to a new report by the National Academy of Social Insurance.

The drop was largely due to a 2.1% decrease in medical benefits for injured workers. Employers’ costs for workers’ comp also fell by 2.7% in 2010. As a share of covered wages, employers’ costs in 2010 were the lowest in the past three decades.

“Employers’ costs as a percentage of payroll declined in 43 jurisdictions,” said John F. Burton, Jr., chair of the study panel that oversees the report, which marks the first time the Academy has released employers’ costs by state. “This decline is probably due to the slow pace of the recovery, with many jurisdictions still experiencing relatively high unemployment rates.”

Most states reported a decrease in the number of workers covered but an increase in covered wages between 2009 and 2010. During the same period, the total amount of benefits paid to injured workers declined in 26 jurisdictions and increased in 25. As a share of payroll, benefits paid to injured workers fell by three cents to $0.99 per $100 of payroll in the nation.

The share of medical benefits for workers’ comp has increased substantially over the past 40 years. During the 1970s medical benefits nationally accounted for 30% of total benefits, whereas in 2010 the share of benefits paid for medical care was almost 50%. Experts attribute this trend to the rising cost of health care.

The report, “Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage and Costs, 2010,” is the fifteenth in a series that provides the only comprehensive data on workers’ comp benefits for the nation, states, District of Columbia and federal programs.

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