Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2016 (July 2016)

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of July 2016 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 September 2 provides national data for August 2016 and industry/sector-specific data for July 2016.) 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 P/C, life/annuity, health (mainly medical expense) insurers, reinsurers, agents and brokers, independent claims adjusters, and third-party administrators.

In July 2016, on a year-over-year basis, employment in most segments of the insurance industry was up by varying degrees. For the 12 months ending in July 2016, P/C carrier employment rose by 10,900 (+2.1 percent) to 527,600. On a month-to-month basis, P/C carrier employment has risen in 8 of the last 9 months. P/C carrier employment had fallen as far as 513,700 (in May 2015) but the latest reading is even with where it was in July 2012.

Employment by life/annuity carriers rose in July 2016 vs. July 2015 (up 7,300, or +3.0 percent) to 334,900. Since March 2006 (when a reclassification between life/annuity and health carriers ended), employment in the life/annuity a segment has generally been falling. It was 366,500 in March 2006 and reached a bottom in March 2015, at 318,500. It has been generally rising since then (up 3,700 in June 2016 alone), so that from March 2015 to date the segment has gained 16,400 jobs.

The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. In July 2016 vs. July 2015 it rose sharply (up 20,500, or 3.9 percent) to 547,900. 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 10,800 jobs in July 2016 vs. July 2015 (up 1.4 percent) to 776,200. 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 478 months’ time, employment rose by 115,500, or 17.5 percent. More granularly, employment rose by 31,600 in 2013, by 52,300 in 2014, and by 26,600 in 2015. However, the growth spurt might be ending: with seven months of 2016 in, employment in this segment is up only 1,400.

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. rose slightly in July 2016 vs. July 2015 (up 100, or 0.4 percent) to 25,200. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for July 2016 fell by 300 (-0.5 percent) to 57,000. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 1,200 (0.7 percent) to 176,800. 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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