Average employee contributions rose slightly in 2011 to $5,750, up from $5,680 a year ago, according to new data on 401(k) savings and behaviors released by Fidelity Investments. On average, participants saved more than 8 percent of their annual savings. As of the end of the fourth quarter 2011, the average 401(k) balance was $69,100, up nearly 8 percent from the end of the third quarter.

"It's very encouraging that savings levels actually held up during the intense market volatility of last year and a sluggish economic environment," said James M. MacDonald, president, Workplace Investing, Fidelity Investments. "Increases in savings levels, however small, can make a significant impact over time."

This snapshot into Fidelity's 401(k) savings is based on the company's 11.6 million 401(k) participant accounts, the largest in the industry.

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