Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2016 (May, 2016)

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of May 2016 on detailed insurance industry employment, and the I.I.I. web site 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 July 8 provides national data for June 2016 and industry/sector-specific data for May 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, and Reinsurers, Agents & Brokers, Independent Claims Adjusters, and Third-Party Administrators.

In May 2016, on a year-over-year basis, employment in the insurance industry was up by varying degrees.

For the twelve months ending in May 2016, P/C carrier employment rose by 6,800 (+1.3 percent) to 520,100. On a month-to-month basis, P/C carrier employment has risen in each of the last 7 months. P/C carrier employment had fallen as far as 513,300 (in May 2015) but the latest reading is even with where it was in January 2013.

Employment by Life/Annuity carriers rose in May 2016 vs. May 2015 (up 10,200, or +3.2 percent) to 332,600. Life/Annuity carrier employment stayed in a range of 340,000 plus or minus 2,000 for all of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, but it began dropping in March 2014 and reached a bottom a year later, in March 2015, at 318,500. It has been generally rising since then.

The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades.  In May 2016 vs. May 2015 it rose sharply (up 20,600, or 3.9 percent) to 542,900. 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, 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 19,000 jobs in May 2016 vs. May 2015 (up 2.5 percent) to 777,400. This category would have added jobs for 39 straight months (starting in March 2013) if it hadn’t dropped 1,200 in one month (December 2015) in that stretch. During this streak, the category has added 113,800 jobs. This segment had 682,100 employed in December 2007, the first month of the recession, dropped to a trough of 638,200 in September 2010, then began gaining and passed the pre-recession peak of 684,500 (reached in July 2007).

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. rose slightly in May 2016 vs. May 2015 (up 100, or 0.4 percent) to 24,900. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for May 2016 rose by 1,100 (+1.9 percent) to 57,900. Year-over-year employment in the category of “Third-party administration of insurance funds” rose by 800 (0.5 percent) to 175,700. 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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