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Census Bureau Reports State Retirement Systems Assets Fall $641 Billion in 2009

Latest Report Shows Two Consecutive Years of Loss in Investment Earnings

     The nation's state retirement systems totaled $2.0 trillion in holdings and assets in 2009, a loss of $641.3 billion (24.0 percent) from $2.7 trillion in 2008, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This follows a $152.2 billion loss the previous year. (See Table 1) [PDF].

     These large decreases are mostly attributed to a $484.9 billion decrease in earnings on investments between 2008 and 2009, following a loss of $439.8 billion the previous year. Retirement systems have substantial investments in financial markets and consequently earnings are dependent on changes in market performance.

     These new data come from the 2009 Annual Survey of Public-Employee Retirement Systems, which reports the annual financial activity for the nation's 222 state administered public employee retirement systems, including cash and security investments holdings, securities, receipts and payments. Data are shown for the nation and individual states. For the first time, this data set will also include actuarial liability data, which projects the total obligation required to cover costs for providing pensions to former and present employees.


     In 2009, investment earnings lost $524.0 billion, reflecting a total receipts decrease of $484.9 billion, the second year of losses following a decrease of $439.8 billion in 2008. (See Table 2) [PDF]

     Total contributions were $64.8 billion in 2009, with employee contributions increasing 5.4 percent to $33.3 billion.

Cash and Security Investment Holdings

     Among the cash and security holdings for public pensions, government securities fell 17.0 percent in 2009 to $163.9 billion from $197.6 billion in 2008. This follows a decline of 12.9 percent in the previous year. Government securities comprised 8.1 percent of the total cash and security holdings of all state employee retirement systems. Other investments (e.g., real property and miscellaneous investments) decreased 10.5 percent in 2009 to $328.4 billion.

     Nongovernmental securities (e.g., corporate bonds and stocks, mortgages, funds held in trust, foreign and international securities, and other securities) were $1.5 trillion in 2009, a 28.8 percent decrease from 2008. Nongovernmental securities comprised 71.6 percent of total cash and security holdings. Corporate stocks made up the greatest amount of nongovernmental securities at 45.4 percent, totaling $658.8 billion in 2009, a 30.7 percent decline from the previous year.

     Total federal securities, total corporate bonds and other nongovernmental securities also saw decreases. Gains were reported in mortgages ($14.1 billion) and funds held in trust ($62.8 billion) in 2009.


     Covered payroll — payments made to active employees on which contributions to a pension plan is based — increased by 5.1 percent to $563.5 billion in 2009 from $535.9 billion in 2008. Pension obligations also saw an increase of 4.1 percent. (See Table 6.) [PDF]

     Total payments in 2009 were $161.7 billion, a 2.7 percent increase from 2008. This increase was because of a 5.9 percent increase in benefits totaling $151.9 billion. (See Table 3.) [PDF]

     “Census Bureau data is critical in providing a single, consolidated source of information regarding the entire public pension community,” said Keith Brainard, research director for the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. “Combined with other data the Census Bureau provides on state and local government finance, the result is a mosaic of facts and figures that fosters analysis and insight into this community.”

     Data are shown for individual retirement systems and for aggregate national and state levels. The structure of retirement systems varies widely among states. In some jurisdictions, state and local government employees are vested in a small number of statewide systems.

     Additional data from the Annual Survey of Public-Employee Retirement Systems for fiscal year 2009 is scheduled for release in Summer 2011.


     The Internet tables are from the Annual Survey of Public-Employee Retirement Systems for fiscal year 2009. The data in these tables are from all state-administered public employee retirement systems and as such are not subject to sampling variability. The data are subject to coverage, response and processing errors as well as errors of nonresponse. For more information on the data limitations, definitions and methodology, see <https://www.census.gov/govs/retire/how_data_collected.html>.

     For more information on realized and unrealized gains/losses, see Section 7.2.2, Measurement Issues: Valuation, of the 2006 Government Finance and Employment Classification Manual at <https://www.census.gov/govs/classification/>.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | PIO@census.gov | Last Revised: May 19, 2016