Insurance Industry Employment Trends: 1990-2018 (November 2018)

By Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just published data as of November 2018 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 in our charts are not seasonally adjusted and are one month behind the national data; accordingly, the BLS report released on January 4, 2019 provides national data for December 2018 and industry/sector-specific data for November 2018.) 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.

Employment in the general U.S. economy continues to be surprisingly strong. In November 2018 there were 2.5 million more people employed in the country than a year earlier (+1.70 percent)—an unusually strong increase this late in the business cycle. In the private service-sector overall, employment was up by 1.47 percent, year-over-year in November 2018. As for the insurance industry, on a year-over-year basis, employment changes in most major segments of the insurance industry were mixed.

For the 12 months ending November 2018, P/C carrier employment dropped by 11,100 (-2.0 percent) to 542,700. Most of the reduction occurred in the last five months: employment in this sector was 555,900 in June 2018; dropped to 550,200 by August; was 545,400 in September; 544,800 in October; and 542,700 in November. Looking slightly longer term, and despite the drop in the last 12 months, since December 2015, employment in this sector has stayed in a range of 540,000 to 560,000.

By contrast, employment by life/annuity carriers rose over the 12 months ending November 2018 (up 5,600, or +1.6 percent) to 351,000. Employment in this segment rose gradually from September 2017 (345,100) to June 2018 (351,400) but has been flat in the five months since then.

For the 12 months ending in November 2018, health carrier employment rose by 13,400 (+2.6 percent) to 519,700. The health carrier segment had been gaining jobs quite steadily for decades. However, this 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 rose by 62,500 or +13.7 percent.

The agent/broker segment gained 8,800 jobs in November 2018 over November 2017 (up 1.1 percent) to 817,700. In 2018 employment growth in this category was highly variable. It dropped in January 2018 (down 4,700) but mostly restored that in February (up 4,000); dropped again in March (down 800); rose again in April, May and June (up 1,000, then 400, then 1,200); lost jobs in July, August and September (-1,300, then -400, then -2,100); and rose in October (+5,500) and November (+5,400). This continued a pattern from the end of 2017 (down 400 in November, up 500 in December). Employment totals in this subsector had stayed in the 800,000 to 810,000 range for 20 months (since February 2017) but have now broken the ceiling of that range.

Among the smaller industry segments, reinsurance carrier employment in the U.S. was up by 1,200 (+4.6 percent) in November 2018 vs. November 2017 to 27,200. Employment at independent claims-adjusting firms on a year-over-year basis for November 2018 dropped by 1,000 (-1.0 percent) to 61,100. Year-over-year employment in the category of third-party administration of insurance funds rose by 5,600 (+3.0 percent) to 195,000. This category has grown quite steadily for more than 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.


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