By Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist
The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of August 2018 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 in our charts are not seasonally adjusted and are one month behind the national data; accordingly, the BLS report released on October 5, 2018 provides national data for September 2018 and industry/sector-specific data for August 2018. 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.
Employment in the general U.S. economy continues to be strong. In August 2018 there were 2.42 million more people employed in the country than a year earlier (+1.6 percent)—an unusually strong increase this late in the business cycle. In the service-sector overall, employment was up by 1.4 percent, year-over-year in August 2018. As for the insurance industry, on a year-over-year basis, employment changes in most major segments of the insurance industry was mixed.
For the 12 months ending August 2018, P/C carrier employment fell by 6,100 (-1.1 percent) to 550,100. Taking a slightly longer perspective, employment in the P/C sector has stayed in a small range of 549,000 to 560,000 for the past 31 months. The last major reclassification of subsectors took place in 2005; in March 2005 P/C employment was measured at 547,000. Since then it sank to a low of 513,500 in January 2014 but grew strongly in 2015 (up 30,500 for that year, or +5.9 percent).
Employment by life/annuity carriers rose in August 2018 vs. August 2017 (up 2,100, or +0.7 percent) to 350,100. Employment in this segment has fallen or was flat in 10 of the last seventeen17 months. Even so, it has remained in the range of 345,000 to 350,000 for 31 consecutive months.
For the 12 months ending in August 2018, health carrier employment rose by 11,000 (+2.2 percent) to 512,700. The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. However, 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 has risen by 55,500, or +12.1 percent.
The agent/broker segment gained 1,200 jobs in August 2018 over August 2017 (up 0.1 percent) to 808,800. Employment growth in this category in 2018 was highly variable. It dropped in January 2018 (down 4,700) but mostly restored that in February (up 4,000); dropped again in March (down 800); rose again in April (up 1,000); was essentially flat in May (up 100); rose in June (up 1,200) and dropped in July and August (down 1,300 and 400, respectively). This continued a pattern from the end of 2017 (down 400 in November, up 500 in December). Employment totals in this subsector have stayed in the 800,000-810,000 range in the 19 months since February 2017.
Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. was down by 200 in August 2018 vs. August 2017 to 26,900. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for August 2018 rose by 2,900 to 61,400. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 6,700 (3.6 percent) to 194,600. 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. It is currently just 100 below an all-time peak (set in July 2018).
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