Census Bureau: Public Pension Funds’ Investment Earnings Down 67%

The number of workers benefiting from state and local government pensions in 2016 rose 3.3% in 2016.

State and local governments increased their employer contributions to public pension funds by $8.5 billion in 2016, while the funds’ investment earnings were down $105.7 billion, according to an annual survey of public pensions by the Census Bureau.

“The 2016 Annual Survey of Public Pensions found that total contributions were $191.6 billion in 2016, increasing 6.6 percent from $179.7 billion in 2015. Government contributions accounted for the bulk of them, $140.6 billion in 2016, increasing 6.5% from $132.0 billion in 2015, with employee contributions at $51.0 billion in 2016, climbing 7.1% from $47.7 billion in 2015,” reports Phillip Vidal, chief of the Census Bureau’s pension statistics branch.

On the other hand, public pension funds saw their earnings on investments drop off 67.9% to $49.9 billion in 2016, from 2015’s $155.5 billion, which the Census Bureau attributes to “market fluctuations.”

The number of workers benefiting from state and local government pensions in 2016 rose 3.3% to 10.3 million people, from 10 million beneficiaries in 2015, and 9.9 million beneficiaries in 2014. Their benefits were also up, rising 5.4% to $282.9 billion for 2016, from $268.5 billion in 2015. However, total assets in public pension funds dropped off 1.6% to $3.7 trillion in 2016, from 2015’s $3.8 trillion level.

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The top nine states in which public sector retirees get the most retiree benefits for total pension contributions are Arkansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, Colorado, New Jersey, Ohio, and Florida, the Census Bureau reports. In these states, retirees receive $1.90 or more in benefits for each $1 in total pension contributions.

Nationally, workers who retire from the public sector get $1.90 in benefits for every $1 of total pension contributions.

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