Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2015 (April 2015)

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of April 2015 on detailed insurance industry employment, and the I.I.I. website contains updated multi-decade trend data in chart form. (The insurance industry/sector-specific data are not seasonally adjusted and are one month behind the national data; accordingly, the report released on June 5 provides national data for May 2015 and industry/sector-specific data for April 2015.) Data for the last few months are preliminary and are often revised later, but revisions are usually small. The I.I.I. slides show employment trends for property/casualty (P/C), life/annuity, health (mainly medical expense) insurers, and reinsurers, agents and brokers, independent claims adjusters, and third-party administrators.

In April 2015, on a year-over-year basis, virtually every subsector of insurance industry employment was up, with many subsectors rising solidly. P/C carrier employment fell by 600 (-0.1 percent) in April 2015 vs. March 2015. For the 12 months ending in April 2015, P/C carrier employment rose by 10,300, or 2.0 percent to 526,800. P/C carrier employment has generally been rising for the last 18 months and is now back to where it was in the middle of 2012.

Employment by life/annuity carriers rose in April 2015 vs. April 2014 (up 14,700, or 4.3 percent) to 356,400. This is the largest year-over-year percentage growth in life/annuity carrier employment in five years (since April 2010). Life/annuity carrier employment stayed in a range of 340,000 plus or minus 2,000 for all of 2013 and half of 2014, but it broke out of that corridor, on the upside, in June 2014. In prior years it was higher —in 2010, for example, it was over 370,000 for the first half of the year and even though sinking in the second half topped 355,000 in every month but December. Life/annuity carrier employment has not fallen for twelve consecutive months (and rose in eleven of those months). We can say that the long downward trend is over, although the gains are still small in historical context.

The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. In April 2015 vs. April 2014 it rose sharply (up 28,900, or 6.0 percent) to 512,200. At least some of this growth is undoubtedly connected with the flood of health insurance applications, purchases, and claims attributable to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and some to population growth, but it is important to acknowledge that this rate of growth has been characteristic of this sector for decades—long before the ACA was proposed.

The agent/broker segment gained 24,600 jobs in April 2015 vs. April 2014 (up 3.5 percent) to 729,900. After losing jobs in the Great Recession (from 682,100 in the first month of the recession, December 2007, to 652,900 in the first month of recovery, July 2009, and on to a trough of 638,200 in September 2010), the segment has been fairly steadily gaining jobs and passed the pre-recession peak of 684,500 reached in July 2007. From the recent trough through April 2014, this segment has gained 91,700 jobs.

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. was unchanged in April 2015 vs. March 2015 at 25,200 and barely rose vs. April 2014 (up 200, or +0.8 percent). Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for April 2015 fell by 3,400 to 49,900. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 8,100 (+4.8 percent) to 177,100. This category has grown quite steadily for more than two decades, though not as fast as employment at medical expense insurers. It was set back slightly by the Great Recession but has generally added jobs since then.

 

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