By Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist
The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of September 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 November 2, 2018 provides national data for October 2018 and industry/sector-specific data for September 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 September 2018 there were 2.54 million more people employed in the country than a year earlier (+1.7 percent)—an unusually strong increase this late in the business cycle. In the service-sector overall, employment was up by 1.5 percent year-over-year in September 2018. As for the insurance industry, on a year-over-year basis, employment changes in most major segments of the insurance industry were mixed.
For the 12 months ending September 2018, P/C carrier employment plunged by 14,000 (-2.5 percent) to 545,400. This is the largest 12-month change, in either direction, in this sector since the period ending October 2016, and is the largest drop since the 12-month period ending June 2012. Most of this 14,000-reduction occurred in the last four months: employment in this sector was 555,900 in June 2018; dropped to 550,200 in August; and 545,400 in September.
In stark contrast employment by life/annuity carriers rose over the 12 months ending September 2018 (up 5,200, or +1.5 percent) to 350,300. Employment in this segment rose gradually from September 2017 (345,100) to June 2018 (351,400) but has been flat in the three months since then.
For the 12 months ending in September 2018, health carrier employment rose by 12,700 (+2.5 percent) to 514,800. The health carrier segment had 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 rose by 57,600 or +12.6 percent.
The agent/broker segment lost 1,400 jobs in September 2018 over September 2017 (down 0.2 percent) to 806,700. 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, May, and June (up 1,000, then 400, then 1,200); and lost jobs in July, August, and September (-1,300, then -400, then -2,100). 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 for 20 months (since February 2017).
Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. was up by 1,500 in September 2018 vs. September 2017, to 27,100. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for September 2018 dropped by 5,300 to 60,600—but remember that 2017 included temporary workers for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 6,400 (3.4 percent) to 194,200. 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 near an all-time peak (set in July at 194,700).
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