It's a classic good news/bad news announcement: despite an upsurge in employer contributions to their pension plans, the long-running economic malaise continues to undermine those accounts, in the worst way since 2008.

Towers Watson released new figures Tuesday suggesting that the average funded status of Fortune 1000 pension plans dropped as much as four points in 2011, impacted by declining interest rates and weak asset returns.

This despite some $70 billion in employer contributions to those funds in 2011.

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