The unemployment rate in the insurance industry is nearly 4 points lower than the economy in general, and the hiring outlook continues to be bright.
And since more than half (55 percent) of all insurance carriers plan to increase staff in the next 12 months, that may make it more difficult for companies to find skilled talent, according to an "Insurance Labor Market Study," conducted in the third quarter of 2012.
"The insurance industry labor market is heating up, both in terms of growth of employees in the industry, and also in terms of the difficulty in recruiting people or the difficulty in finding talent," said Gregory P. Jacobson, CEO of The Jacobson Group, a Chicago-based recruitment and staffing firm specializing in the insurance industry.
The Jacobson Group conducted the survey in collaboration with Ward Group, a consultancy specializing in benchmarking insurance company operations.
"For certain disciplines, including actuarial, executives, sales and marketing, product management and underwriting, the difficulty-to-fill measure increased by an average of 10 percent," Jacobson said.
"I think that insurance carriers are moving back into the territory of a war for talent," he said. "They will have to work to position themselves in the best possible manner to get the best talent in the industry, which is a little different than the rest of the economy."
Jeffrey Rieder, a partner and head of Ward Group in Cincinnati, said that, while remaining cautious, insurers are "very optimistic about the ability to generate revenue and as a result, they are starting to make investments back into their organizations at substantial rates."
In addition to increasing headcount, he is seeing company investments in technology that are "three times greater than any other function within the company."
Of particular interest in the study findings, he said, was the growth in claims headcount, a reaction he attributed, in part, to the number of major claims over the past two years. Rieder also noted there had been movement toward using external adjusters, but the increased claims activity has convinced many companies to bring that function back in-house.
Jacobson noted there was "a significant decrease in the number of claims people in the industry" as insurers sought to reduce expenses during the height of the recession. The reverse is occurring now, he said.
--By Anne Freedman
October 1, 2012
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