Employers are clearly more optimistic about the economy, with a second 40% tranche that had suspended 401(k) contributions planning to resume them by mid-2011, the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America said.

Overall, the vast majority of 401(k) plans did not suspend or reduce their matches, the council found. More than 70% made no change to matching contributions, and nearly 10% actually increased them in the past three years.

Since 2008, only 14.8% suspended matching contributions.

"Companies continue to make their 401(k) plans a top priority," said David Wray, the council's president.

"Those that have suspended their matches are in the process of restoring them, and companies are aggressively restructuring their investment lineups."

Employees are also continuing to contribute to their plans. Nearly 40% of companies said their workers have made no changes to their contributions, but 31.6% said their workers have increased their contributions.

However, among those companies that suspended matching contributions, 78.1% said their workers decreased participation in their 401(k) plans — indicating how powerful a motivator company matches are.

The findings, which were released Dec. 17, are based on an October survey of 531 plan sponsors around the country.

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