Retiree spending of public and private sector pension benefits generated US$1.3 trillion in total economic output in the U.S. in 2020, supporting nearly 6.8 million jobs during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

It also found $612.6 billion in pension benefits were paid to 24.6 million retired Americans in 2020. This included $334.8 billion paid to 11.5 million retired employees of state and local government and their beneficiaries, $90.3 billion paid to 2.7 million federal government beneficiaries and $187.4 billion paid to 10.4 million private sector beneficiaries.

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The report also found pension expenditures have large multiplier effects. Each dollar paid out in pension benefits supported $2.10 in total economic output nationally and each taxpayer dollar contributed to state and local pensions supported $7.90 in total output nationally. The largest employment impacts occurred in the food services, health-care and retail trade sectors.

“The impact of pensions goes so much deeper than providing financial security to retirees, which we saw in real time during the global pandemic,” said Dan Doonan, executive director of the NIRS and co-author of the report, in a press release. “In 2020, the U.S. and global economies suffered unprecedented, abrupt and deeply devastating impacts with the COVID-19 outbreak. During this time, pension income was crucial for millions of Americans. Retirees with pensions knew that their retirement income was stable and secure, despite severe economic instability.”

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