The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) released a report showing 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 for DB and DC plans, breakdowns of plan characteristics and information on plan assets, contributions and investments.
The 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.
The total amount of assets held by pension plans increased from $ 9.2 trillion to $ 10.7 trillion, which, according to the EBSA, is the largest increase since 2008. Defined contribution plans accounted for 7.4 trillion billion of that amount, while defined benefit plan assets stood at $ 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; Contributions to the DB plan increased by 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 2018 and 2019
Number of pension plans
Defined benefit plans
Defined contribution plans
401 (k) type plans
Amount of assets (in billions of $)
Plan contributions (in billions of $)
Benefits paid (in billions of $)
Total number of participants (in millions
Active participants (in millions)