August 27, 2013
By Paula Aven Gladych

More employers are offering retirement plans and a higher percentage of workers are participating.

New data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute shows there’s been slight improvement since the end of the Recession, with 61 percent of all workers over the age of 16 working for an employer that sponsors a retirement plan, up from 59 percent in 2009.

Workers participating in a retirement plan increased to 46 percent in 2012, up slightly from 2009 (45 percent) but below the level measured in 2003 (48 percent), according to EBRI. [EXPAND Read more]

The number of workers who were vested in their retirement plan increased to 43 percent in 2012, up from 24 percent in 1979. The increase is largely due to the increased number of workers participating in defined contribution retirement plans (such as 401(k) plans), where employee contributions are immediately vested, and the faster vesting requirements in private-sector pension plans established since 1979, EBRI noted.

Defined contribution plans were considered the primary plan by 78 percent of workers with a plan. Defined benefit pension plans were the primary plan for 21 percent of workers.

Worker participation rates in salary reduction plans, such as 401(k)s, has been going up, but the average employee contribution to those plans dropped to 6.7 percent of salary in 2012. The average employee contribution in 2009 was 7.4 percent of salary. This is at least partially driven by the growth of automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans, which tend to bring in more first-time, lower-income participants but often at lower contribution rates.

The data in the report are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest Survey of Income and Program Participation on retirement plan participation, covering December 2011 to March 2012. [/EXPAND]