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I.I.I.: Insurance Industry Employment Trends 1990-2011

Posted on 08 Apr 2011

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The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published its data as of February 2011 on insurance industry employment, and the I.I.I. website contains updated trend data.

In February 2011, several thousands fewer people were working in insurance than in the preceding month. P/C carrier employment fell by 900 to 458,800—a new record the low (BLS data goes back only to 1990; P/C carrier employment in January 1990 was 495,800 and rising). 

The peak occurred in July 1999 (515,800) and the downtrend that began then overcame the hard market early in the first few years of the past decade and was likely fueled by technology and productivity improvements and lately by a very soft premium market.

Employment in the U.S. reinsurance industry rose slightly in February (by 200); U.S. employment in reinsurance is now about where it was when the “Great Recession” began in December 2007. On the life insurance carrier side, employment dropped by 1,400 jobs (down 0.4%) to 372,300. Unlike P/C carriers, life insurance carrier employment is well above its trough, of 331,600 in January 2005. Health insurers shed only 100 jobs in February (to an employment level of 421,200) and are down 18,300 for the 12 months ending in February 2011 (-4.2%).

The number of agents and brokers fell by 2,200, down 0.3% in February vs. January, to 635,300. Employment in claims adjusting rose, but only by 500 (up 1.1%)—hardly enough to offset the January result, which was the largest one-month percentage drop in over 20 years.

It is important to remember that these data are not seasonally adjusted, and that some of the December-to-January declines might be seasonal. For example, in 11 of the 21 December-to-January comparisons for life carriers from BLS data, employment dropped. For P/C carriers, the comparison also dropped 11 of 21 times. In contrast, the May-to-June employment comparison for P/C carriers was positive all 21 times, and positive for life/annuity carriers 16 out of 21 times.