insurance employment changes

Employment in most segments of the insurance industry was up by varying degrees on a year-over-year basis in July 2016. (Photo: iStock)

In this crazy economy, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on job numbers.

For the insurance industry, new competitors, an aging workforce, online sales and rapidly emerging technologies are added reasons to pay attention to employment data.

Employment in most segments of the insurance industry was up by varying degrees on a year-over-year basis in July 2016, according to Steven Weisbart, Ph.D., CLU, senior vice president and chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute. Independent claims-adjusting firms are the only insurance subsector that lost employees on a year-over-year basis.

June to July 2016 insurance employment changes

Here are the employment changes from June 2016 to July 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The industry has been growing overall, says Steve Weisbart of the Insurance Information Institute. But, certain sectors are struggling to…

    • Property and casualty direct carriers: +2,100.
    • Life direct carriers: +400.
    • Health/Medical direct carriers: +3,400.
    • Title and other direct carriers: +500.
    • Reinsurers: +300.
    • Agents/Brokers: +0.
    • Third-party administration: -600.
    • Claims adjusters: -1,400.

Multi-decade and year-over-year trends

The BLS published data as of July 2016, on detailed insurance industry employment. From thie BLS data, the Insurance Informationa Institute has compiled updated multi-decade trend data spanning 1990 through July 2016.

It’s interesting to note that from 1998-2013, the total insurance industry employment stayed in the rage of 2.3-2.4 million. In 2014, insurance industry employment finally rose above 2.4 million.

Graphs from the institute showing insurance employment trends from 1990-2016 follow, as well as year-over-year employment data for property and casualty carriers, agents and brokers, independent claims adjusters, third-party administrators, health insurers and life/annuity insurers:

U.S. Employment in the Direct P/C Insurance Industry: 1990-2016

Property and casualty carrier employment

For the 12 months ending in July 2016, property and casaulty carrier employment rose by 10,900 (+2.1 percent) to 527,600.

On a month-to-month basis, property and casaulty carrier employment has risen in eight of the past nine months.

Property and casaulty 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.

graph of U.S. employment in Insurance Agencies & Brokerages: 1990-2016

Agency and brokerage employment

The agent and 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 the agent and broker segment employed 660,700, so that in 478 months’ time, employment rose by 115,500, or 17.5 percent. 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.

“It’s interesting to observe the uncharacteristic sharp increase in agent and broker employment from 2013 through 2015,” notes Weisbart. “We can only speculate at the causes. Perhaps intense recruitment of millennials to replace retiring baby boomer or impacts from online sales were factors.”

U.S. Employment in the Reinsurance Industry: 1990-2016

Reinsurance carrier employment

Reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. rose slightly in July 2016 vs. July 2015 (up 100, or 0.4 percent) to 25,200.

U.S. Employment in Independent Claims Adjusting: 1990-2016

Independent claims-adjusting firm employment

Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for July 2016 fell by 300 (-0.5 percent) to 57,000.

U.S. Employment in Third-Party Administration of Insurance Funds: 1990-2016

Third-party administration employment

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.

U.S. Employment in the Direct Health-Medical Insurance Industry: 1990-2016

Health carrier employment

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, and some to population growth. However, it’s important to acknowledge that this rate of growth has been characteristic of this sector for decades — long before the ACA was proposed.

U.S. Employment in the Direct Life Insurance Industry: 1990-2016

Life insurance employment

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.

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