September 2012 Issue
September 06, 2012

ERS: State pensions a boon to economy

Author: State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Source: NYSUT United

Public service pensions built on defined benefit plans such as those offered by the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) have come under increased criticism in recent years. You may have heard such complaints yourself. Meanwhile, the advantages of defined benefit plans — including greater retirement security and lower administrative costs — have received less attention. One frequently overlooked benefit of the pensions provided through the NYSLRS is the tremendous contribution retirees make to New York state.

Seventy-seven percent of NYSLRS retirees continue to live in New York state, and this growing segment of the population stimulates the local economy in many different ways.

NYSLRS paid $6.5 billion in benefits in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 to those 299,423 retirees and beneficiaries who remained New York state residents.

These payments have a significant impact on the state’s economy. Consider the following: Spending by NYSLRS retirees generated $191 million in sales tax collections for local governments, and $196 million for New York state and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority during FY 2012.

Further, while NYSLRS retirees make up only 2.5 percent of the state's general population, they pay $1.4 billion in real property taxes, which is 4.4 percent of the total collected in New York. These taxes help fund education, roads and government services of every kind. NYSLRS retirees also tend to spend a larger-than-average share of their income on industries that benefit local markets, such as health care, meals and entertainment. In fact, NYSLRS retirees and their beneficiaries are responsible for an estimated 63,000 jobs in New York as a result of their spending.

Since the people holding these jobs generate their own spending, in total, NYSLRS retirees and beneficiaries are responsible, both directly and indirectly, for $10.4 billion in economic activity in New York state. After a career working on behalf of the people of New York, public service retirees continue to contribute, not just as valued citizens, but as citizens who bring value to the communities where they reside.

Q: What county has the most NYSLRS retiree and beneficiary recipients?

A: According to the most recent figures available, Suffolk County leads the way, with 29,119 retirees and beneficiaries. The remaining nine counties in New York's Top 10 are:

County Recipients

  • Erie 25,261
  • Nassau 19,677
  • Albany 15,910
  • Westchester 13,701
  • Monroe 13,558
  • Onondaga 11,322
  • Oneida 8,394
  • Saratoga 8,149
  • Dutchess 7,984

Q: In what region of the state are NYSLRS retirees responsible for generating the most new jobs?

A: Long Island, which comprises Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Q: Where can I learn more about NYSLRS?

A: Visit our website at and click on "About Us." Our website is also a good resource for information about your benefits.