The aggregate funded status of the 100 largest U.S. public pension funds rose 90 basis points in the third quarter to 71.6% as of Sept. 30, said Milliman's most recent quarterly public pension funding study released Monday.
Asset values rose 2.15% over the quarter to $3.517 trillion, the result of investment returns of 2.97% in aggregate. Liabilities, meanwhile, rose 0.76% over the quarter to an estimated $4.908 trillion.
Also in the third quarter, the plans paid out about $28 billion more in benefits than they took in from employer contributions and participants.
"These plans are moving in the right direction, with two more crossing the 90% funded mark in Q3, bringing the total to 16 plans with 90% funding or above," compared to 14 at the end of June, said Rebecca A. Sielman, principal, consulting actuary and author of the study, in a news release on the results. "But that progress is hampered as plan sponsors reduce their interest rate assumptions to reflect current market expectations — something one-third of the plans in this study have done in their latest reported fiscal year."
There are still 25 plans whose funding ratios are below 60% and 10 that are below 40%, according to the report.