EBSA announces growth of its pension scheme

Department of Labor Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) published a report this shows that pension plans are increasing in all aspects: number of plans, members, assets, contributions and disbursements.

Data is taken from the 5500 series reports for plan years ending in 2019, the most recent available. The information presented includes the weighted number of plans and participants in defined benefit (DB) and defined contribution (DC) pension plans, breakdowns of plan characteristics and information on plan assets, contributions and investments. .

Effects of covid?

Filing deadlines for some plan years ending in 2019 fell during the COVID-19 public health emergency; therefore, EBSA was concerned that this could lead to filing delays that could affect the 2019 data. Despite this timeline, however, EBSA found that while there were some minor filing delays at the start of the pandemic period, they had no material impact on either the data collection or the report results.

Below are highlights of the data gleaned from the 2019 5500 Forms Series reports.

Number of pension plans and members

The total number of pension plans increased further in 2019, according to the EBSA, to around 733,700. The growth of DC plans exceeded that of DB plans, but nonetheless, even the number of DB plans increased. .

The number of plan participants in 2019 increased by 2.1 million. This growth was uneven, however; the number of DC plan members has increased, but the number of DB plan members has decreased. Nevertheless, the number of active participants increased for both defined contribution and defined benefit plans.

Of the 733,700 plans, 726,500 were single employer, 2,500 multi-employer and 4,700 multi-employer.

Plan assets

The total amount of assets held by pension plans rose from $ 9.2 trillion to $ 10.7 trillion, which, according to EBSA, is “the biggest increase since 2008”. Defined contribution plans accounted for $ 7.4 trillion of that amount, while defined benefit plan assets amounted to $ 3.3 trillion.

There was a slight decline in the share of DB plans reported as fully frozen in 2019, according to EBSA; in 2018, 18.9% were and in 2019, 18.7% were. Nonetheless, the amount of assets in fully frozen DB plans increased in 2019.


From 2018 to 2019, contributions to the plan increased 6.7% to $ 672.8 billion. On the way down, DC contributions increased 7.2% to $ 570.2 billion; DB contributions increased 4.3% to $ 102.6 billion.


Pension disbursements in 2019 totaled $ 857 billion, of which $ 257.9 billion was from defined benefit plans and $ 599.1 billion from defined contribution plans.

Pension plans paid out $ 184.1 billion more than they received in contributions in 2019. This is true for DB plans and defined contribution plans: DB plans paid 155.3 billion dollars more than they collected in contributions, while defined contribution plans paid out $ 28.9 billion more than they received in contributions.

Highlights for 2019 and 2018

Category 2019 2018 Change, 2018-2019
Number of pension plans
Defined benefit plans 46 870 46,869 0%
Defined contribution plans 686,809 675,007 + 1.7%
401 (k) type plans 604,424 588,499 + 2.7%
All packages 733 678 721,876 + 1.6%
Amount of assets (in billions of $)
DB plans 3.27 2.97 + 10.3%
CD regimes 7.43 6.26 + 18.6%
All packages 10.71 9.23 + 16.0%

Plan contributions (in billions of $)

DB plans 102.60 98.40 + 4.3%
CD regimes 570.20 531.90 + 7.2%
All packages 672.80 630.30 + 6.7%
Benefits paid (in billions of $)
DB plans 257.90 244.00 + 5.7%
CD regimes 599.10 550.70 + 8.8%
All packages 857.00 794.70 + 7.8%
Total number of participants (in millions) 141.90 139.80 + 1.5%
Active participants (in millions) 98.10 96.40 + 1.7%

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