Wage and salary employment in the insurance industry is projected to increase 8 percent between 2002 and 2012, more slowly than the 16 percent average for all industries combined. While demand for insurance is expected to rise, downsizing, productivity increases due to new technology, and a trend toward direct mail, telephone, and Internet sales will limit job growth. However, some job growth will result from the industry’s expansion into the broader financial services field, and employment in the medical service and health insurance areas is anticipated to grow. Also, thousands of openings are expected to arise in this large industry to replace workers who leave the industry, retire, or stop working for other reasons.
Medical service and health insurance is the fastest-growing sector of the insurance industry. In recent years, increasing health insurance premiums and relatively high unemployment have left some unable to afford health insurance, but over the long term, significant growth is expected. As the share of the elderly population rises, more people are expected to buy health insurance and long-term-care insurance, as well as annuities and other types of pension products sold by insurance sales agents. If legislation is passed to make health insurance affordable to more people, demand should increase further for this type of insurance. Population growth will stimulate demand for auto insurance and homeowners insurance. Population growth also will create demand for businesses to service the needs of more people, and these businesses will need insurance as well. Moreover, large liability awards are motivating growing numbers of individuals and businesses to purchase liability policies to protect against lawsuits brought by people claiming injury or damage from a product.
Many successful insurance companies will recognize the Internet’s potential as a powerful marketing tool. Not only might this reduce costs for insurance companies, but it also could enable many clients to turn to the Internet first to get information on their policies, obtain quotes, or submit claims. As insurance companies begin to offer more information and services on the Internet, some occupations, such as insurance sales agent, could experience slower employment growth.
Sales agents working in the property and casualty market, particularly in auto insurance, will be most affected by increasing reliance on the Internet. Auto policies are relatively straightforward and can be issued more easily without the involvement of a live agent. Also, auto premiums tend to cost more per year than do other types of policies, so people are more likely to shop around for the best price. The Internet makes it easier to compare rates among companies.
Insurance companies will continue to face increased competition from banks and securities firms entering the insurance markets. As more of these firms begin to sell insurance policies, increasing numbers of insurance sales agents will be employed in them, rather than in insurance companies. In order to stay competitive, insurance companies have begun to expand their financial service offerings or to establish partnerships with banks or brokerage firms.
Productivity gains caused by the greater use of computer software will continue to limit the growth of certain jobs within the insurance industry. For example, the use of underwriting software that automatically analyzes and rates insurance applications will limit the employment growth of underwriters. Also, computers linked directly to the databases of insurance carriers and other organizations have made communications easier among sales agents, adjusters, and insurance carriers, so that all have become much more productive. Furthermore, efforts to contain costs have led to an increasing reliance on customer service representatives to deal with the day-to-day processing of policies and claims. In addition, the Internet has made insurance investigators more productive by drastically reducing the amount of time it takes to perform background checks, allowing investigators to handle an increasing number of cases, but limiting their employment growth.
Sales agents and adjusters still are needed to meet face-to-face with clients, many of whom prefer to talk directly with an agent, especially regarding complicated policies. Opportunities will be best for sales agents who sell more than one type of insurance or financial service. Adjusters will still be needed to inspect damage and interview witnesses, and although the number of available jobs for actuaries will be limited due to the small size of the occupation, employment opportunities should be good as stringent qualifying requirements resulting from the examination system limit the number of new entrants.