The ratio of workers participating in life insurance benefit programs has been declining for the past 6 years, government data shows.

The percentage of full-time workers participating in life insurance benefits in private industry totaled just 61% this year, down from 68% in 1999, according to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington.

For part-timers, the percentage declined from 15% to just 10% in the same period.

For small employers, specifically those with fewer than 100 workers, the number of employees covered by group insurance fell from 43% to 36% between 1999 and 2006, the BLS data shows. In companies with 100 or more employees, the ratio fell from 70% to 66% in the period.

Data for 2006 shows only 52% of blue-collar workers in private industry participated in group life insurance, up slightly from 51% in 2003. This compares to 58% of white-collar workers participating this year, up from 54% in 2003.

Goods-producing industries saw participation fall between 1999 and 2006, from 69% of workers to 60%. In service-producing businesses, the ratio declined from 51% to 47% in the same period.

Participation has fallen for both union and nonunion workers, BLS data shows. Only 48% of nonunion workers in private industry had group life insurance in 2006, down from 53% 5 years earlier, while among unionized employees, the ratio declined sharply, to 62% from 78% in the same period.

Looking at participation rates for all employees by region, the latest figures available, from 1999, showed the Northeast and Midwest with the highest percentage of workers participating in employer life insurance, at 58% and 57%, respectively, followed by the South at 55% and the West with just 52%.

The average amount of life insurance coverage for all workers was around 1.5 times earnings as of 1997, the latest year for which this data was compiled by BLS.