The number of retirement savers putting money into 401(k) plans increased even as the stock market was in shambles and the economy weakened, according to Charles Schwab Corp. data issued Tuesday.

Overall 401(k) participation increased four percentage points to 77% through the end of 2008, compared with 73% participating at the end of 2007, according to data taken from retirement plans serviced by Schwab.

As companies slashed costs to try to bolster profits, most have kept their 401(k) match, Schwab said. At July 31, 9% of employers had stopped making matching contributions, the data shows.

In 2008, the number of 401(k) participants who took loans from their plan fell to 5.7% from 5.9% the previous year, the data shows. The number of people who took hardship loans rose to 0.9% from 0.8%.

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