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Assets Grow for 100 Largest Public Pension Systems

Cash and securities holdings of the 100 largest public employee pension systems in the United States —   which account for 89.4 percent of domestic public pension financial activity — grew during the first quarter of 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions. The bureau reports that in the first quarter, these systems had cash and security holdings of over $3.2 trillion. That’s the highest level ever reported by the Census Bureau since it began its quarterly survey of the 100 largest public pension systems in 1968. 

The report says that since the last quarter of 2013, these systems’ earnings from corporate stocks fell slightly, while those from corporate bonds, international securities and federal securities grew slightly. Government contributions to the plans amounted to $25.7 billion, down from $27.8 billion; employee contributions, however, grew 5.4 percent to $10.9 billion. 

While assets are at record levels, that doesn’t necessarily translate to record solvency. According to a report by Milliman, the 100 largest public pension systems in the United States had collective liabilities of approximately $3.8 trillion by the end of 2013. So the good news from the Census Bureau does not necessarily mean that their funded status is similarly robust. 

John Iekel is Senior Writer and Editor for the NTSA Net portal.