Employer costs for workers' compensation in the Middle Atlantic states averaged $31.62 an hour in March, the second-highest of the nation's nine regions, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said today.

Only the New England states, at $32.02 an hour, had higher costs for employee compensation in private industry.

In the Middle Atlantic region - Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York - wages and salaries in March came to $21.91 of the total hourly compensation, and benefits accounted for the remainder.

Among the benefits, health insurance in the three-state region cost an average of $2.30 an hour, the highest in the country, BLS said.

Nationally, total costs for worker compensation in private industry averaged $27.46 an hour in March.