State and Local Government Unfunded Pension Liabilities Rise by $268 billion in the Third Quarter of 2015

Source: Donald J. Boyd and Yimeng Yin, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, By the Numbers Brief, January 2016

Investment shortfalls in the July-September quarter of 2015 caused unfunded state and local government pension liabilities to increase by $268 billion, reaching $1.7 trillion, according to Federal Reserve Board data examined in a By the Numbers Brief of the Rockefeller Institute. The increase was a full 1.4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), bringing unfunded liabilities to 9.5 percent of GDP —- undoing about one and a half years of improvement. In the last 25 years, unfunded liabilities have increased by 1.4 percent or more of GDP in 13 quarters, while these liabilities have fallen by 1.4 percent or more in just two quarters. These issues are particularly important given the significant stock market declines since the start of the year, suggesting that further substantial increases in unfunded liabilities are likely.