The end of the year cannot come quickly enough for the insurance industry. Declining profit margins, layoffs and eroding stock prices have affected all sectors of the economy in 2001, including insurers. What's more, although the economy is expected to bounce back next year, it could take the insurance industry years to recover from the financial losses suffered from the September 11 terrorist attack.Prior to Sept. 11, the insurance industry was experiencing its worst economic performance in years. For example, even though Indianapolis-based Conseco Inc. has sold off assets and cut or moved 5,000 employees oversees, the company's stock is trading at a 10-year low. Even more troubling for CEO George Wendt is determining how to come up with the cash to pay off the company's massive debt.

But Conseco isn't alone. In July, Seattle-based Safeco Corp. announced a 10% workforce reduction-1,200 positions-by the end of 2003. One month later, San Antonio-based USAA cut 1,370 jobs, about 6% of its workforce, the deepest cuts in the company's 79-year history. More recently, MetLife announced it was cutting 1,830 employees and 253 officers and directors.

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