Feb. 23, 2007 -- Employee benefit costs account for more than 44 percent of business payroll expenses, an increase of four percent over last year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported this week.

Based on a survey of 400 businesses, the study found that health related expenses, which accounted for 14.5 percent of payroll costs, rose by 11.9 percent over the past 12 months, while retirement savings and expenditures rose by 8.6 percent.

The study, which examined more than 30 types of benefits by industry, company size, and geographic region, also found that businesses in metropolitan areas spent roughly $1,000 more per employee for time off and retirement payments compared to businesses in non-metro areas.

"This survey trend confirms, once again, that employers continue to step up and provide much needed benefits packages even as the cost continues to rise," Randel Johnson, the group's vice president for Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits, said in statement.

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