The record-high interest in hiring from the middle of last year is continuing to grow, as 56.2 percent of insurers are planning to increase staff over the next 12 months, according to the latest “Insurance Labor Market Study” conducted by Jacobson Group, an insurance staffing company, and Ward Group, and insurance consultancy.

In July of last year, 54.5 percent of insurers intended to increase staff; in January of last year, the number was 51 percent. Expectations to grow revenue are also at the highest level since the survey began in 2009. Participants anticipate revenue growth 8.6 points higher than in July of last year, and 17 points higher than the January 2012 survey.

Overall, IT remains the function most likely to see an increase in staffing. Among life/health insurers, sales and marketing is expected to see slightly more attention when it comes to increasing staff, but among P&C insurers, IT stood out as the top hiring priority, with claims and underwriting also expected to receive attention. However, IT also moved up to second in terms of difficulty of recruiting talent, just behind actuarial hires.

For the fourth survey in a row, the most cited reason for increasing staff was anticipated increase in volume (47 percent). This was followed by expansion (46 percent), currently being understaffed (32 percent) and those looking to improve service (28 percent).

Of the companies planning to add staff over the next 12 months, 95 percent expect an increase in revenue with almost 62 percent responding that it will be due to a change in market share. More than 90 percent of P&C participants expect an increase in revenue growth; just fewer than 71 percent of life/health participants are also expecting increased revenues.

The number of new employees, however, is not keeping up with the increases seen in insurers’ 12-month hiring plans. When numbers from last month are compared to the plans reviewed in January 2012, insurers that maintained their current size is 5.3 percent higher than it was projected to be. Interestingly, the one category that outperformed expectations was companies planning a 20-plus percent increase of employees; 0.8 percent planned on it, and 2.6 percent ended up carrying it out.

Insurance carrier employment, which averages the employees of all carrier participants, is up 0.5 percent since the survey’s last results in July 2012—compared to the nearly 2-percent growth in insurers planning to hire. Despite these discrepancies, the number of employees per company bottomed-out in the first half of 2011 with an average of around 1,400 employees, and since then, has consistently, albeit slowly, increased in average by more than 30 employees.

67 percent of mid-sized companies plan to add additional staff during the next 12 months. This is 19 and 13 points higher than large and small companies, respectively.

For the research, 135 companies participated; 77 percent from the property/casualty sector, 16 percent from life/health and 7 percent from reinsurance.

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