Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2017 (January 2017)

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of January 2017 on detailed insurance industry employment, and the Insurance Information Institute (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 March 10 provides national data for February 2017 and insurance-industry/sector-specific data for January 2017.) 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.

In January 2017, on a year-over-year basis, employment in most segments of the insurance industry was up to varying degrees. For the 12 months ending in January 2017, P/C carrier employment rose by 14,800 (+2.7 percent) to 559,900. On a month-to-month basis, P/C carrier employment has risen in 20 of the last 25 months. P/C carrier employment had fallen as far as 513,700 (in January 2014) but the latest reading is even with where it was in August 2009.

Employment by life/annuity carriers rose in January 2017 vs. January 2016 (up 6,400, or +1.9 percent) to 350,600. Since the fourth quarter of 2011, employment in the life/annuity segment has generally been flat. In September 2011 employment was 348,500 and has loosely maintained that level since then.

The health carrier segment had been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. However, in January 2017 vs. January 2016, it rose only slightly (up 1,900, or 0.4 percent) to 470,900. At least some of this slowdown is undoubtedly connected with the 2016 election results that indicate a significant change in expected health insurance ownership and claims, offset partly by population growth. Depending on the changes that are ultimately enacted, employment growth in this sector could resume, remain flat, or decrease in the coming years.

The agent/broker segment gained 11,400 jobs in January 2017 vs. January 2016 (up 1.5 percent) to 781,900. Employment growth in this category in the last three years has been extremely strong. In July 2012 this segment employed 660,700; so that in 55 months, employment rose by 121,200, or 18.3 percent. More granularly, employment numbers rose by 31,600 in 2013; by 52,300 in 2014; and by 26,600 in 2015, with the spurt ending in 2016.

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. rose slightly in January 2017 vs. January 2016 (up 100, or 0.4 percent) to 24,900. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for January 2017 rose by 4,000 (+7.2 percent) to 59,600. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 4,800 (2.6 percent) to 186,600. 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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