Despite talk of improvement, things still look somewhat bleak for insurers. The industry lost an additional 12,800 jobs in the month of August, the 10th consecutive month of losses, according to seasonally adjusted data released last Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Insurers' August payrolls included 2.240 million employees, down from a seasonally adjusted 2.253 million in July, the report says. Additionally, the adjusted number from the previous month, which originally was reported as 4,800 jobs lost, was updated to 9,400 jobs lost.
In contrast, the economy as a whole lost 216,000 jobs—an improvement over previous months and less than economists' forecasts—but the losses for the previous two months were revised upward slightly. This raises the total number of jobs lost since the start of the recession in December 2007 to 6.9 million. While the decline seems to have slowed, the unemployment rate rose more than expected from 9.4% to 9.7%, just shy of the 10% that many experts have predicted could be a low point of the recession, says the report.
Looking at individual lines of business, statistics showed only one sector saw employment growth in a year-over-year comparison: health insurance, which has exhibited steady strength. Health was up 2.7% over 2008, with 462,000 jobs, though the total was down slightly from the month before.
Reinsurance, which the report says also has been steady in recent months, remained relatively flat—down just 100 jobs over the year—totalling 28,800. Property/casualty insurers were the only group to see a very small month-over-month increase, though the sector is down 2.6% since 2008 to 479,300 jobs. Life insurers employed 346,000, down 3% since the year before. Agents and brokers, the largest category of insurance employees, showed a 3.7% slip to 652,800. Third-party administrators have slipped 6.3% since 2008, totalling 123,400 employees. Title insurers continued their steep decline, showing a 15.2% drop year-over-year to 69,400. Finally, claims adjusters were down 13.2% to 47,300 jobs.
Additionally, the report found average weekly earnings for the insurers' nonsupervisory positions were up across the board from June 2008 to June 2009, save third-party administrators, who were paid $751.28—3% less than the year before.
Life insurer pay climbed 7% to $988.23; health insurers rose 5.2% to $930.40; title insurers increased 3.8% to $820.22; Reinsurance rocketed 17.6% to $841,70; agents and brokers saw a boost of 4% to $745.17; claims adjusters were up 2.1% to $876.46; and property/casualty ascended 3.2% to $999.49—the highest rate of all the sectors.
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