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Job losses in the financial sector — and especially in the insurance industry — marred an otherwise positive jobs report for the United States, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Insurers slashed 9,200 jobs in March. And the harsh news for insurance employment extended to the newly revised losses for February, which showed jobs down about 3,000 more than initially reported.
The report, released April 2, was generally heralded as a sign of U.S. economic recovery, with an overall employment growth of 162,000 nationwide, even though the unemployment rate remained steady at 9.7%. But financial employment marked the biggest disappointment in the report, with about 21,000 jobs lost — almost half of those in insurance.
The seasonally adjusted insurance employment total was at 2.194 million in March, accelerating a slide that’s been eroding insurance employment numbers for more than a year. In the most recent 12 months, the industry saw a 3.3% decline in employment, significantly more than the 1.8% drop in nonfarm jobs nationwide in that same period.
Total insurance industry payrolls are reported each month on a seasonably adjusted basis, along with the current month’s nonfarm payrolls. Separately, data by industry segment — broken out by various insurance carrier and noncarrier categories — are available only on an unadjusted basis for the prior month.
Based on just-released February 2010 data, health insurers again proved to be the only insurance sector that’s seen year-to-year growth in employment. Jobs in that sector rose by 3,600 since February 2009 to 440,500, though the category has been recently flat month-to-month, slipping by about 300 jobs between January and February. In this report, no insurance employment category showed month-to-month improvement.
Life insurers were down 4% between 2009 and 2010 to 344,300; property/casualty fell 3.7% to 465,400; title insurers declined 1.7% to 67,900; reinsurers dropped 8.7% to 25,100; agents and brokers, the largest category, slipped 3.1% to 633,200; claims adjusters fell 15.7% to 44,000; and third-party administrators declined 3.2% to 126,600.
As has been the case in past months, average weekly earnings for nonsupervisory positions in the industry were mostly up between February 2009 and February 2010, though agents and brokers and third-party administrators saw year-over-year declines. Month-to-month numbers were mixed, with five of eight insurance employment categories seeing improvement from January to February. Health insurers, though up in employment numbers, experienced a major wage decline of almost $30 a week in the month, though the category’s pay has risen 0.9% year-over-year to $955.76 a week.
Life insurers averaged $1,004.90 a week, up 2.5% from the year before; property/casualty at $1004.85, up 1.2%; title insurers at $919.58, up 14%; reinsurance at $912.11, up 9.3%; claims adjusters at $905.58, up 0.8%; third-party administrators at $762.59, down 1.6%; and agents and brokers at $756.76, down 1.7% since February 2009.
(Jesse A. Hamilton, Washington bureau manager: Jesse.Hamilton@ambest.com)