Around a third of workers in the US have access to health benefits for gay partners, research shows.

According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33 per cent of state and local government employees can get same-sex partner benefits. For private sector workers, the figure was 29 per cent.

This is the first time the number of workers who can get health benefits for gay partners has been calculated.

In the annual National Compensation Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics asked 17,000 businesses and local governments whether they offer benefits for gay partners.

While half of public sector workers – gay and straight – have access to survivor benefits, just seven per cent of private employees do.

Gay rights groups praised the Obama administration for taking steps to collect the data.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said:

“With each effort to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in surveys like this, the Department of Labor moves us closer to being able to better serve the community.

“Data collection is fundamental to addressing the disparities in employment, health, education and income facing our community.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said: “As with so much about our community – from the health disparities we face, to simply how many of us there are – we can’t begin to fully understand and address the challenges that LGBT people face until major surveys and studies actually ask about them.

“Thankfully, the Obama administration is taking critical steps to ensure that questions about LGBT people and our families are finally asked.

He added: “Offering domestic partner benefits has increasingly become a standard best practice in America’s workplaces, with nearly 60 per cent of Fortune 500 companies offering them. The data released today reflects that progress, but also reminds us that, despite the advances in corporate America, many American workers still lack access to equal benefits for their families.”