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In a different measure of just how bad the recession has been, a new census report says state retirement systems lost a quarter of the value of their investments between 2008 and 2009 and Utah's system had typical losses.
"Retirement systems have substantial investments in financial markets and consequently, earnings are dependent on changes in market performance," the Census Bureau wrote about what happened in 2009. Its data often are delayed by a couple years, and the economy has improved since 2009.
Nationally, the value of assets in state worker pension plans dropped 24 percent between 2008 and 2009, losing $641.3 billion of value, dropping from $2.67 trillion to $2.03 trillion.
In Utah, the report said the value of the state retirement system's assets dropped by 23.6 percent, from $22.98 billion to $17.57 billion.
Such losses led the Utah Legislature last year to redesign its retirement system. It shifted away from a guaranteed benefit pension plan to a 401(k)-style system for new workers.
The Wall Street Journal has praised that shift and said it likely is a harbinger of things to come in other states because it could help close long-term funding gaps for their pension funds.
The Journal said state governments are "one of the last bastions of guaranteed pensions," but said more states are considering following the example of Utah and Michigan and moving to 401(k)-style plans where each employee decides where to invest funds and at retirement will have a sum that reflects how much was contributed and how the investments fared.