Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2017 (August 2017)

The U.S. Labor Department Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of August 2017 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 October 6 provides national data for September 2017 and industry/sector-specific data for August 2017. 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.

In August 2017, on a year-over-year basis, employment in most major segments of the insurance industry was mixed to varying degrees.

For the 12 months ending August 2017, P/C carrier employment rose by 9,400 (+1.7 percent) to 570,100, almost entirely from adding 6,200 in May and June (likely recent college graduates). However, taking the month of August 2017 by itself, P/C carrier employed dropped by 2,900. This is not unusual for August; employment in this segment often falls that month. It has dropped 14 times since 1990—exactly half of the time. From a longer-term viewpoint, in the 31 months since the low point of January 2015 employment in this segment has surged—up by 55,500 (+10.8 percent).

Employment by life/annuity carriers fell in August 2017 vs. August 2016 (down 1,600, or -0.5 percent) to 349,600. Employment in this segment has fallen in each of the last four months, and five of the eight months in 2017 (one other month had no gains or losses). It is hard to see longer-term employment trends in the BLS data for life/annuity carriers. This is because three times since March 2005, BLS has reclassified some employment that was previously in life/annuity carriers into other subsectors, making it hard to know what to use as a baseline. The most recent reclassification ended in March 2015. From then, employment in the life/annuity a segment has generally risen from 318,500 to 349,600 (up 31,100, or 9.8 percent). It has remained close to 350,000 for 14 consecutive months.

For the 12 months ending August 2017, health carrier employment rose by 13,400 (+3.0 percent) to 477,700, The health carrier segment had been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. However, as with the life/annuity carrier sector, 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 grew to 477,700, up 20,500 or +4.5 percent.

The agent/broker segment gained 10,000 jobs in August 2017 vs. August 2016 (up 1.3 percent) to 786,300. Employment growth in this category in the three years from 2013 to 2015 was extremely strong. In March 2013 this segment employed 658,400, so that in 36 months, employment rose by 111,300, or 16.8 percent. More granularly, employment in this segment rose by 31,600 in 2013; by 52,300 in 2014; and by 27,400 in 2015. But the spurt slowed in 2016 (up by 7,800), and in 2017 (up by 2,900 in the first eight months of 2017). Some of this jump might simply have been a recovery from the drop in employment in this segment in the years 2007 to 2011, when employment dropped from 667,200 in January 2007 to 642,500 in February 2011 (down by 24,700).

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. was up by 300 in August 2017 vs. August 2016 to 25,400. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for August 2017 was down by 1,400 to 57,100. This will most likely show an increase in the wake of the extensive destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 100 (0.1 percent) to 186,100. 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. It is currently near an all-time peak, which was reached in December 2016 at 187,700.


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