Percentage of Private Sector Employees with Pension Retirement

Hedrick Smith appeared on NPR’s Morning Addition this a.m., talking about a settled negotiation between the company Boeing and its employees. Boeing had threatened to move out of Washington state if the employees did not agree to a reduction in pension and health benefits.

Mr. Smith contends this Boeing deal is part of a national problem for the middle class. From his recent op-ed in the L.A. Times:

“Boeing’s stingy treatment of its highly skilled workforce offers a vivid example of how America’s new economy has created gaping economic inequalities and steadily squeezed the economic life out of the U.S. middle class over the last three decades, even as corporate profits and CEO pay have skyrocketed.”

Pension plans have been rapidly disappearing among private sector employees over the last three decades.

The percentage of private sector employees covered by pensions has declined from 46% to 18% since 1980.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute has a history of pension plans in the United States, which includes the 1980 number from above.

Monique Morrissey has more on the decline of the pension over at the Economic Policy Institute, including the 18% figure from current BLS numbers.

As Smith points out in his op-ed, 84% of American workers at companies with 100 or more employees received lifetime pensions from their companies in 1980, with 70% receiving health insurance fully paid for by their employers. Today, fewer than 30% have lifetime pensions and only 18% have fully employer-paid health insurance.

As for executives and stock holders, at least for Boeing, things are looking great.

“For just as the company was wringing concessions from its workers, its board of directors approved a 50% increase in the company’s stock dividend and a $10-billion stock buyback that will richly reward investors and executives who get paid in Boeing shares.”