Employee compensation costs in the three Middle Atlantic states averaged $30.81 an hour in September, the second-highest in the nation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

For the three states - Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York - wages and salaries came to $21.30, and benefits were $9.51. Benefits represented 30.9 percent of the total compensation, the highest share in the nation that month.

The only region with higher compensation, at $30.88 an hour, was the Pacific, which consists of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

The national average in September was $27.07, the bureau said. Its report covers the cost of paying workers for private-industry employers.