Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2016 (December 2015)

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of December 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 February 5 provides national data for January 2016 and industry/sector-specific data for December 2015.) Data for the last few months are preliminary and are often revised later, but revisions are usually small. The I.I.I.’s slides show employment trends for property/casualty (P/C), life/annuity, health (mainly medical expense) insurers, and reinsurers, agents & brokers, independent claims adjusters, and third-party administrators. Each January the BLS re-calibrates its employment estimates based on updated Census Bureau population reports, and this year that resulted in decreases in employment levels in 2015 in relation to numbers reported during the year.

In December 2015, on a year-over-year basis, employment in the insurance industry was mixed—up in most subsectors, down in a few others. For the 12 months ended December 2015, P/C carrier employment fell by 600 (-0.1 percent) to 515,800. P/C carrier employment has generally been falling for the last 18 months, with five notable exceptions: (November 2014, +1,700; February 2015, +1,600; June 2015, +3,700; November 2015, +2,400; and December 2015, +1,900); those months have kept the total relatively flat. P/C carrier employment is now about even with where it was in October 2013.

Employment by life/annuity carriers rose in December 2015 vs. December 2014 (up 9,500, or 2.9 percent) to 333,200. Life/annuity carrier employment stayed in a range of 340,000 plus or minus 2,000 for all of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, but it began to drop in March 2014 and reached bottom a year later, in March 2015, at 318,500. It has been rising since.

The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. In December 2015 vs. December 2014 it rose sharply (up 25,100, or 4.9 percent) to 538,100. 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 26,600 jobs in December 2015 vs. December 2014 (up 3.6 percent) to 774,800—hiring 13,700 in the months of October 2015 and November 2015 alone. This is the largest two-month gain in this segment in the last 25 years (the next highest was 12,200 in May to June 2011.) 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 December 2015, this segment has gained 136,600 jobs.

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the United States rose in December 2015 vs. December 2014 (up 1,000, or +4.1 percent) to 26,100. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for December 2015 rose by 700 (+1.3 percent) to 56,600. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds fell by 600 (-0.3 percent) to 173,600. 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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