More than half of all insurance companies say they plan to increase staff in 2014, although hiring for the most-in-demand positions may prove difficult. That’s according to the latest Semi-Annual U.S. Insurance Labor Outlook Study conducted by The Jacobson Group and Ward Group.
Jeff Rieder, partner for Ward Group, says when analyzing the history of the survey’s results, the predications for increasing employment levels is at record highs, and decreasing employment is at record lows.
Nearly 62 percent of companies polled intend to increase staff in 2014 – the highest rate in the survey’s history. Only 4 percent of carriers that responded expect to decrease staff in the next 12 months – the lowest rate in the survey’s history.
Since April 2011, 26,400 jobs have been added by insurance carriers, the study says.
“There are not many people looking for work in the insurance industry right now,” says Gregory P. Jacobson, co-CEO of Jacobson. In Jacobson’s view, the industry is seeing a return to its pre-recession state, bringing increased confidence, optimistic staffing and robust revenue forecasts.
According to Jacobson, there is a widening gap between the general economy and the insurance industry, which appears to be outperforming national trends in job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate for the insurance industry at 2 percent, the lowest since March 2007. The overall U.S. employment rate stands at 6.6 percent.
The survey also revealed that projections for increasing insurance company staff in the next 12 months directly correlates to the industry’s expectations to increase total revenue.
Some 61.9 percent of insurance carriers responding to the survey plan to increase staff in the next 12 months, while 87.3 percent of those carriers also expect to increase revenue during that same time.
The anticipated job growth in insurance companies is good news for the industry overall, but filling open positions is proving challenging. The study shows many carriers are experiencing difficulty recruiting.
“The war for talent is getting very, very hot,” Jacobson says. “With the diminishing unemployment rate and the severe skills gap throughout the industry, companies are struggling to find experienced individuals to fill their open positions.”
Although product line has a significant impact on the ease of filling positions, Rieder says claims-related positions and human resource positions are particularly difficult to fill.
“Dating back to the 2008 time frame, there was a lot of reduction-in-force, particularly around the claims operations,” Rieder says. “We also saw many of the human resource training departments depleted. What this caused is that for certain positions, particularly insurance training and experienced claims adjuster roles, there are fewer of those [job candidates] because they found jobs in other industries.”
National vs. Regional Carriers
When it comes to revenue growth in the next 12 months, national property/casualty carriers appear to be more confident in gaining market share, the study found.
Eighty-five percent of all P/C companies surveyed expect an increase in revenue growth; less than 3 percent expect a decrease in revenue. However, 73 percent of national/multinational companies expect market share to drive revenue changes, compared to 49 percent of regional carriers.
One study trend that caught the eye of Rieder and Jacobson is the more aggressive plans by national carriers to boost revenue and hiring in the next 12 months.
“We saw that generally the national carriers were much more aggressive in both their hiring expectations as well as their anticipated growth,” Rieder says. “It’s important for those regional companies to have compensation plans that are competitive and attractive to retain staff. We are finding that many quality staff are being plucked away by their national counterparts.”
The Semi-Annual Insurance Labor Outlook Study has been conducted twice a year since July 2009 to provide a look at labor market and hiring trends. The study’s next iteration will occur in July 2014.