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"Optimistic about future hiring," is not a phrase that has been uttered by many industries, including insurance, since the recession began in late 2007. And considering the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that the insurance industry lost a staggering 16% of its workforce in 2009, along with 12,800 jobs in January and February of this year, one would imagine the industry's outlook would remain similarly bleak.

But according to GreatInsuranceJobs.com's annual survey of insurance companies, agents, brokers and third party administrators, there is a sense of cautious optimism. Its "Insurance Industry 2010 Employment Outlook" states that close to 75% of the companies surveyed have current job openings with 16% saying they plan on hiring more than 500 employees this year alone. And, not surprisingly, companies are turning to nontraditional avenues for recruiting with 31% of companies saying they use social media platforms to find talent. LinkedIn was cited as the most popular site, followed by Facebook. The survey also finds that the top industry positions that will be filled in 2010 are insurance sales professionals, claims, underwriting, call center and IT.

But there are still viable concerns regarding the future of employment within the insurance industry. The BLS states that the unemployment rate for the industry has risen from 3.1% in 2008 to 7.7% in February 2010, with factors such as deteriorating agency ratings, the current state of the construction industry and the continuing soft market playing a role. So while companies believe that the worst has passed, there is a lingering nervousness that will ultimately prevent some executives from seeking new talent.

Even for those that are hiring, it has not been easy. Issues persist, such as too many unqualified candidates applying, difficulty filling positions requiring relocation, cutbacks in recruiting budgets and, of course, the enormous challenge of finding experienced sales professionals that can be successful in a down economy.

"For the first time in 18 months, companies are showing some optimism, but are still cautious," the report states. Hopefully that optimism continues or, even better, spreads.
Emily Holbrook is the founder of Red Label Writing, LLC, a writing, editing and content strategy firm catering to insurance and risk management businesses and publications, and a former editor of Risk Management.