U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics show an upward employment trend for almost all segments of the insurance industry. (Photo: Shutterstock/alexmillos)

In good news for the insurance industry, the latest U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for June 2015 shows that, on a year-over-year basis, virtually every subsector of insurance industry employment was up, with many subsectors rising solidly.

Property and casualty (P&C) carrier employment rose by 3,400 (+0.6%) in June 2015 vs. May 2015, said Dr. Robert P. Hartwig, CPCU, president of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). The direction of June-over-May employment change for the P&C industry is often up (since 1990, P&C carrier employment has risen 17 times and fallen nine times) but this is the largest month-over-month rise since March 1998. For the 12 months ending in June 2015, P&C carrier employment rose by 6,500, or 1.2% to 527,900. According to Hartwig, P&C carrier employment has generally been rising for the last 18 months and is now back to where it was in the late summer of 2012.

The agent/broker segment gained 21,800 jobs in June 2015 vs. June 2014 (up 3.1%) to 734,000. After losing jobs in the Great Recession—from 682,100 in the first month of the recession (December 2007) to 652,900 in the first month of recovery (July 2009) and on to a trough of 638,200 in September 2010—the segment has been fairly steadily gaining jobs and passed the pre-recession peak of 684,500 reached in July 2007, Hartwig noted. From the recent trough through June 2015, this segment has gained 95,800 jobs (up 15.0%).

Life and health segments also up

Employment by life/annuity carriers rose in June 2015 vs. June 2014 (up 16,500, or 4.8%) to 361,900. This is the largest year-over-year percentage growth in life/annuity carrier employment in five years (since March 2010). Life/annuity carrier employment stayed in a range of 340,000 (plus or minus 2,000) for all of 2013 and half of 2014, but it moved up in June 2014. Hartwig observed that life/annuity carrier employment has not fallen for 14 consecutive months (and rose in 13 of those months). “We can say that the long downward trend is over, although the gains are still small in historical context.”

The health carrier segment has been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. In June 2015 vs. June 2014 it rose sharply (up 26,100, or 5.3%) to 517,100. 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, Hartwig said, but it’s important to acknowledge that this rate of growth has been characteristic of this sector for decades—long before the ACA was proposed.

Among the smaller industry segments, Hartwig said, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. rose in June 2015 vs. June 2014 (up 500, or +2.0%). Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for June 2015 fell by 3,500 to 50,800. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 9,100 (+5.3%) to 179,900. This category has grown quite steadily for over two decades, Hartwig explained, 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.

About the data

The BLS recently published data as of June 2015 on detailed insurance industry employment, and the I.I.I. website contains updated multi-decade trend data in chart form. Data for the last few months are preliminary and are often revised later, but revisions are usually small, Hartwig notes. The insurance industry/sector-specific data are not seasonally adjusted and are one month behind the national data; accordingly, the report released on August 7 provides national data for July 2015 and industry/sector-specific data for June 2015.

For more information about the data and trends, see Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2015 (June 2015).