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63 percent of defined benefit retirement participants in plans open to new participants

September 29, 2017

In March 2017, 63 percent of private industry workers participating in defined benefit retirement plans were in plans that were open to new participants. Twenty-five percent of workers were in soft-freeze plans, or plans that no longer allow new employees to participate but allow all or some workers in the plan to continue accruing benefits. The remaining 12 percent of workers were in frozen, or hard-freeze plans. Participants in frozen plans stop accruing benefits on the date the plan is frozen, and the benefit is calculated as of the day the plan was frozen.

Percent of private industry workers having open, soft and hard frozen defined benefit retirement plans, by occupation, March 2017
Occupation Open Soft freeze-all participants still accruing benefits Soft freeze-some participants still accruing benefits Hard freeze

All workers

63% 22% 3% 12%

Management, professional, and related

55 27 3 15


77 12 (1) (1)

Sales and office

61 21 2 15

Natural resources, construction, and maintenance

77 16 2 5

Production, transportation, and material moving

64 23 3 11


(1) No workers in this category or data do not meet publication criteria.

Out of the 25 percent of private industry workers in soft-freeze defined benefit retirement plans, 22 percent were in plans for which all participants are still accruing benefits. The remaining 3 percent were in plans where some participants are still accruing benefits.

Among occupational groups, 77 percent of workers in both services and natural resources, construction, and maintenance participated in open defined benefit plans, the highest percentage among occupational groups in March 2017. Fifty-five percent of workers in management, professional, and related occupations had open plans.

These data are from the National Compensation Survey - Benefits program. For more information, see National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2017.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, 63 percent of defined benefit retirement participants in plans open to new participants at (visited July 13, 2024).

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