By Dr. Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist, Insurance Information Institute
The employment report for June 2020 just released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, has some interesting numbers. I’m not referring to the national employment numbers but to the May employment numbers for the insurance industry.
You might remember that the May numbers for the national economy were dreadful. The unemployment percentage was 13.3 percent. The comparable numbers for subsets like the property/casualty (P/C) insurance industry aren’t released until a month later, but those numbers for these subsectors became available today. Note that the May numbers are preliminary and are often revised, though slightly, in subsequent months.
In May, preliminary P/C insurance carrier employment shed the 2,700 jobs that had been gained in April. P/C carrier employment has been effectively flat at 559,000 since February 2020—remarkable in relation to most other sectors of the economy.
Life/annuity carriers gained 300 jobs in May, for total employment of 350,000—essentially flat since January 2019 (with some few large month-to-month changes that net to roughly zero).
Surprisingly, health (mainly medical expense) carriers lost 3,200 jobs in May, following a loss of 2,500 (revised upward) jobs in April. This might be explained by the cessation of services like elective surgery and fewer visits to emergency departments (a recent CDC report showed a drop of roughly 25 percent in visits for heart attacks and strokes in April and May).
Insurance brokerage and agencies gained 1,500 jobs in May after having lost 10,500 jobs (revised) in April. I suspect that the May agent/brokerage numbers will be revised upward next month, in part due to participation in the Paycheck Protection Program.
It looks like the insurance industry is doing its part to keep the economy running.