About 19% of the $7 trillion that U.S. employers spent on compensating workers in 2005 went to pay for employee benefits.

Researchers at the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Washington, say benefits expenditures increased to $1.3 trillion in 2005, up from $953 million in 2000.

The EBRI researchers found when they analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Commerce that retirement benefits are still the largest single benefits expenditure for U.S. businesses, although retirement benefits’ share of benefits spending fell to 46% in 2005, from 48% in 2000.

Health benefits accounted for $596 billion in spending, or 44% in total benefits spending, in 2005, up from $400 billion, or 42% of total benefits spending, 5 years earlier.

Spending on unemployment insurance, life insurance and workers’ compensation was $138 billion in 2005, up from $94 billion in 2000. These benefits constituted just over 10% of employers’ benefits costs in 2005, a slightly higher share than in 2000, the EBRI researchers report.