Making sense of the dip in property/casualty carrier employment

By Dr. Steven Weisbart, Chief Economist, Insurance Information Institute

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the number of people working for property/casualty (p/c) insurers has been dropping continually for two years (since February 2017), from 551,200 to 520,700 (the preliminary estimate for February 2019).

Seasonal adjustment plays a small part in determining these numbers. The not-seasonally-adjusted p/c carrier employment for February 2017 was 549,500, and the February 2019 preliminary estimate was 518,600.

What’s going on? Is this a trend? Based on the numbers alone, it’s hard to tell. Consider the following graph of seasonally-adjusted p/c carrier employment since January 2011 — 18 months after the official end of the Great Recession:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Don’t be misled by the spike in March 2015-March 2016. This is how the Bureau of Labor Statistics incorporates a change in classification—that is, in this case, some people who were previously not considered employed by p/c carriers were, as of March 2015, now considered as employed in this industry. Rather than an instant change, the adjustment is made over twelve months beginning and ending in March.

Since the data that begin in March 2016 also show a downtrend, it is easy to infer that, if there had been no reclassification in 2015-16, the downward trend that started (on the graph) in 2011 would in 2019 probably show p/c carrier employment at or below 500,000.

Although we don’t readily have policy counts over that span, it is reasonable to assume that, with growth in the population and the economy, p/c carriers are growing, and doing so with fewer employees. It is likely that at least some of this is due to the use of digital methods for activities that humans previously did. P/C carriers are becoming more productive.