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

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of September 2016 on detailed insurance industry employment, and the Insurance Information Institute’s (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 November 4 provides national data for October 2016 and industry/sector-specific data for September 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 property/casualty (P/C), life/annuity, health (mainly medical expense) insurers, and reinsurers, agents and brokers, independent claims adjusters, and third-party administrators.

In September 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 September 2016, P/C carrier employment rose by 8,500 (+1.7 percent) to 521,500. On a month-to-month basis, P/C carrier employment has risen in 14 of the last 27 months. P/C carrier employment had fallen as far as 511,500 (in October 2015) but the latest reading is even with where it was in December 2012.

Employment by life/annuity carriers fell in September 2016 vs, August 2016 but rose in September 2016 vs. September 2015 (up 4,200, or +1.3 percent) to 332,400. Since March 2006 (when a reclassification between life/annuity and health carriers ended), employment in the life/annuity 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 13,900 jobs.

The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. In September 2016 vs. September 2015 it rose sharply (up 19,600, or 3.7 percent) to 550,700. 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 11,900 jobs in September 2016 vs. September 2015 (up 1.6 percent) to 775,700. Employment growth in this category in the last four years has been extremely strong. In September 2012 this segment employed 657,600, so that in 48 months, employment rose by 118,100, or 18.0 percent. More granularly, employment rose by 31,600 in 2013, by 52,300 in 2014 and by 26,600 in 2015. However, the spurt might be ending. With nine months of 2016 in, employment in this segment is up by only 6,000.

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. fell slightly in September 2016 vs. September 2015 (down 500, or -2.0 percent) to 24,800. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for September 2016 rose by 2,300 (+4.0 percent) to 59,200. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 1,300 (0.7 percent) to 175,500. 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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