March 10, 2006
Although there has been only a slight decline in overall retirement plan coverage, employer-sponsored plans have changed considerably in the last decade.
Participation in defined contribution plans has eclipsed participation in defined benefit plans.
In 1992-93, 32 percent of private-industry workers participated in a defined benefit plan, while 35 percent participated in a defined contribution plan. By 2005, the percentage of employees participating in defined contribution plans had increased to 42 percent, while the percentage participating in defined benefit plans had fallen to 21 percent.
One explanation given for the changes in retirement coverage is the shift in the labor force toward different occupations and industries over the last decade. Particularly relevant is the relative decline in employment among full-time workers, union workers, and workers in goods-producing establishments. Traditionally, employers in good-producing industries, especially mining and manufacturing, have offered defined benefit plans more so than service-producing industries have.
Data in this article are from the BLS National Compensation Survey program. For additional information, see "Trends in retirement plan coverage over the last decade," by Stephanie L. Costo, Monthly Labor Review, February 2006.