By John S. McClenahen U.S. manufacturing companies paid an average of 32.5% of their payrolls in benefits during the year 2000, some five percentage points lower than the all-business average of 37.5%, reveals the most recent annual employee benefits study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C. The study covers 456 employers representing a cross section of U.S. business in terms of industries, geography and size. At 10.5% of the total, payments for medical-related benefits accounted for the largest share of employee-benefit costs among the 456 firms. Payments for vacations, holidays and other time not worked accounted for 9.4% of benefits costs. Payroll taxes and other legally required payments accounted for 8.7% of benefits costs. More than 98% of the companies surveyed provided vacation, health insurance and paid holidays to full-time employees. Some 95% provided retirement benefits, and 93% provided life insurance. And a majority provided sick leave (78%), long-term disability (74%) and short-term disability (64%) benefits.