Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2015 (November 2015)

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of November 2015 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 January 8 provides national data for December 2015 and industry/sector-specific data for November 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.

In November 2015, on a year-over-year basis, virtually every subsector of insurance industry employment was up, with many subsectors rising solidly. P/C carrier employment fell by 200 (-0.04 percent) for the 12 months ending in November 2015, to 524,600. P/c carrier employment has generally been rising for the last 18 months but has slipped in six of the last eight months. Employment in November 2015 actually rose vs. October 2015, but rose less than in November 2014, so the year-over-year change dropped. P/c carrier employment is now nearly back to where it was in November 2014.

Employment by life/annuity carriers rose in November 2015 vs. November 2014 (up 19,300, or 5.5 percent) to 369,500. Life/annuity carrier employment stayed in a range of 340,000 plus or minus 2,000 for all of 2013 and half of 2014, but it broke out of that corridor, on the upside, in June 2014. It has risen by over 1,000 per month in 12 of the past 18 months. In prior years employment in this sector was higher--before 2004, for example, it was over 400,000.

The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. In November 2015 vs. November 2014 it rose sharply (up 23,600, or 4.7 percent) to 528,900. 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 23,000 jobs in November 2015 vs. November 2014 (up 3.2 percent) to 748,600—hiring 12,500 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 November 2015, this segment has gained 110,400 jobs.

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. rose in November 2015 vs. November 2014 (up 900, or +3.6 percent) to 26,100. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for November 2015 fell by 2,000 (-3.8 percent to 50,700. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 1,600 (+0.9 percent) to 177,300. 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.

 

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