More than half of all insurance companies responding to a recent survey 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 that when analyzing the historical pattern of the survey’s results the indications for both increasing and decreasing employment levels at insurance companies are at record highs and lows, respectively.

Nearly 62 percent of companies polled intend to increase staff in 2014 — the highest rate in the history of the survey. While only 4 percent of carriers responding to the survey expect to decrease staff over the next 12 months — the lowest rate in the history of the survey.

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-chief executive officer 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 when it comes to job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported the unemployment rate for the insurance industry is at 2 percent, the lowest since March of 2007. The overall U.S. employment rate stands at 6.6 percent, according to the BLS.

The survey also revealed that projections for increasing insurance company staff in the next 12 months directly correlates to the industry’s expectations to also increase total revenue.

Some 61.9 percent of insurance carriers responding to the survey plan to increasing 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 also is proving challenging. The study shows that many carriers are experiencing difficulty recruiting for open positions.

“The war for talent is getting very, very hot,” says Jacobson. “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.”

Though product line has a significant impact on the ease of filling positions, companies responded that most roles are still moderately difficult to fill.

According to Rieder, the two areas hardest hit during the recession were claims related positions and human resource positions.

“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.”

That has led to tough recruiting challenges for those sectors, he says.

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.

“The difference between the national and regional carrier findings was pretty stark,” Rieder says.

The survey showed that 85 percent of all P/C companies surveyed expect an increase in revenue growth with less than 3 percent expecting a decrease in revenue. However, 73 percent of national/multi-national companies expect market share to drive revenue changes compared to 49 percent of regional carriers.

One important study trend that caught the eye of Rieder and Jacobson this year 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. “Many of the national carriers are anticipating much larger growth when compared to their regional peers.”

That’s important when considering compensation plans, he says.

“It’s important for those regional companies to have compensation plans that are competitive and attractive to retain staff,” he says. “We are finding that many quality staff are being plucked away by their national counterparts.”

Other Findings
  • 67 percent of commercial P/C companies are expecting to increase staff during the next 12 months.
  • Of the companies who plan to add staff during the next 12 months, 92 percent expect an increase in revenue with almost 68 percent responding that it will be due to a change in market share.
  • Technology, underwriting, sales/marketing and claims positions continue to be the most in demand.
  • Actuarial, analytics, executive and technology positions continue to be the most difficult to fill.

If the industry follows through on its plans, overall the carriers will see a 0.89 percent increase in industry employment during 2014, creating new jobs.

The Semi-Annual Insurance Labor Outlook Study has been conducted twice a year since July 2009. Collecting revenue and hiring projections from organizations across all sectors of the industry, the survey provides the industry with a valuable look at labor market outlooks and hiring trends.

The study’s next iteration will occur in July 2014.

The Jacobson Group is a global provider of insurance talent, offering services for executive search, professional recruiting, emerging talent, RPO, temporary staffing, subject matter experts, and onsite and work-at-home operations support.

Ward Group is a provider of benchmarking and best practices studies for insurance companies. The firm analyzes staff levels, compensation, business practices and expenses for all areas of insurance company operations.

(This article was originally published on Insurance Journal’s website; Reporter Andrea Wells is the Editor-in-Chief of Insurance Journal, a sister publication of Carrier Management.)

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