Pew Charitable Trusts has released an ominous report, “The Fiscal Health of State Pension Plans: Funding Gap Continues to Grow.” The report finds that in 2012, U.S. public pensions lost ground in their funding ratios and ended the year weaker than they started. What is not clear is why, in March 2014, Pew is reporting 2012 data. Because of large stock market gains in 2013, pension funding gaps are now actually shrinking, not growing. Reuters writes about the Pew report:
Factoring in promises made by local governments to fund pension benefits for their employees, total pension debt climbed to over $1 trillion as of June 30, 2012, the end of the most recent budget year for which data is available.
‘Even though we’ve seen recent market gains and reforms, the funding gap has continued to grow for pensions,’ said David Draine, a senior researcher at the Pew Center on the States.
A month earlier, Reuters reported 2013 pension fund data from Wilshire that had pension funding levels improving:
Swelling investment returns improved funding for U.S. public pensions last year, but almost all retirement systems are still in weak shape and unable to cover their liabilities fully, according to a report released by Wilshire Consulting on Tuesday.