The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of March 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 May 5 provides national data for April 2017 and industry/sector-specific data for March 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, reinsurers, agents & brokers, independent claims adjusters and third-party administrators.
In March 2017, on a year-over-year basis, employment in all major segments of the insurance industry was up to varying degrees. For the 12 months ending in March 2017, P/C carrier employment rose by 10,200 (+1.8 percent) to 563,600, including 2,400 in March. March is generally a month in which P/C carriers add staff: since 1990, P/C carrier employment has risen in March 19 times, was flat once, and fell 7 times. Oddly, of the 7 March months in which P/C carrier employment fell, only two occurred during a recession.
Employment by life/annuity carriers rose March 2017 vs. March 2016 (up 5,300, or +1.5 percent) to 351,900. But it is hard to see longer-term employment trends in the BLS data for life/annuity carriers because three times since March 2005 BLS has reclassified some employment that was previously in life/annuity carriers into other subsectors, so it is difficult to know what to use for a baseline. The most recent reclassification ended in March 2015. From then employment in the life/annuity a segment has generally risen from 318,500 to 351,900 (up 33,400, or 10.5 percent).
The health carrier segment had been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. However, as with the life/annuity carrier sector, the health carrier sector had a major reclassification beginning in March 2015, which reset the sector’s employment from 517,900 in March 2015 to 457,200 in March 2016. Since then, employment in this sector grew to 471,000, up 13,800 or 3.0 percent. Now that the Congress and the president aim to repeal Affordable Care Act (ACA), it will be interesting to watch whether this employment growth continues, stalls, or reverses.
The agent/broker segment gained 4,200 jobs in March 2017 vs. March 2016 (up 0.5 percent) to 779,400. Employment growth in this category in the last four years has been extremely strong. In March 2013 this segment employed 658,400, so that in 48 months, employment rose by 121,000, or 18.4 percent. More granularly, employment rose by 31,600 in 2013, by 52,300 in 2014, by 27,400 in 2015 and by 7,800 in 2016.
Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. was flat in March 2017 vs. March 2016 at 24,700. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for March 2017 rose by 2,100 (3.7 percent) to 58,200. This is near the highest that employment at independent claims-adjusting firms has been in at least the last 25 years (the peak was in November 2016 at 59,600). Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 1,900 (1.0 percent) to 186,600. This category has grown quite steadily for over 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. It is currently near an all-time peak, which was reached in June 2016 at 187,300.
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