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State Pensions Suffer Huge Loss

With 3.8 million Americans employed by state governments, the welfare of the state retirement systems is a valid concern, especially given the systems’ dependence on market strength. Because of these concerns, many state governments are asking hard questions about the conditions of their state pensions or making difficult decisions to ensure longevity.

According to new data released today, state retirement systems’ assets fell $641.3 billion in 2009, a big drop even by 2008 standards when retirement systems saw losses of $152 billion.

Most of the losses in 2009 were because of a $485 billion decrease in earnings on investments, following a loss of $440 million the previous year.

Total contributions to retirement systems were $65 billion. Employee contributions increased 5 percent to $33 billion.

In these times when state and local governments are facing severe budgetary hardships, having good data year to year to understand the changes taking place is more important than ever. The 2009 Annual Survey of Public-Employee Retirement Systems provides this valuable information. It reports annual financial activity for the nation’s 222 state administered public employee retirement systems, including cash and security investments holdings, securities, receipts and payments.

For the first time the Census Bureau is releasing actuarial liability data, which projects the total obligation to cover costs for providing pensions to former and present employees.

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