State Retirement Assets Up 10% in 2010: Census Bureau

Assets increased for the first time since 2007

Retirement assets in public employee systems increased more than 10% in 2010 to $2.2 trillion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported on Thursday. Investment earnings were up for the first time since 2007, however, at $289 billion, they were still below the 2007 level.

In 2009, state pension systems lost over $511 billion.

The Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Public-Employee Retirement Systems: State-Administered Pensions reports membership information and financial activity on 222 state-administered public-employee retirement systems.

Corporate stocks showed the biggest gains, increasing 14% to $767 billion according to the survey. Corporate stocks comprised over 34% of total holdings in 2010. Corporate bonds increased 3.3% to $350 billion.

Corporate stocks, corporate bonds and foreign and international securities comprised the bulk of total holdings and investments in 2010 at over two-thirds. Foreign and international securities accounted for over 16% of total holdings and investments with assets of $362 billion, a 14% increase from 2009.

“Most investment categories showed increases from 2009 to 2010 with few exceptions: cash and short-term investments, mortgages, and real property,” according to the report. “Combined, these categories comprised 8.0 percent of total holdings and investments in 2010.” Mortgages were the most notable decline, dropping 14.5% to $9.5 billion.

Total contributions increased only slightly to $97.7 billion. Government contributions increased 1.8% while employee contributions actually fell by 1%. “Government contributions comprised 66.2 percent and employee contributions comprised 33.8 percent of total contributions in 2010.”

State pensions paid $173.5 billion in 2010, up almost 6%. The increase was largely driven by increases in benefits payments, which accounted for over 94%. Benefits payments increased over 6% in 2010, while withdrawals increased 4.5% to $3.5 billion.

Membership numbers fell slightly to 17.4 million people. California, Texas and Ohio had the most members with 1.9 million, 1.5 million, and 1.2 million, respectively.

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