More insurance agents and brokers are entering the U.S. workforce – a trend that’s expected to continue for nearly a decade, according to the latest federal government employment outlook.

The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics noted a nearly 20,000 gain in the number of producers for the month of February, which improved 2.6% from the same period in 2015. That brought the total number of such jobs to 771,500.

For the 2014 to 2024 period, the BLS projects that the number of insurance sales agents will grow 9%, or 2% more than the 7% average for all U.S. occupations. As the U.S. population ages, job growth for agents who sell health and long-term care insurance is expected to be particularly strong, according to the report.

“Employment growth will likely be strongest for independent sales agents as insurance companies rely more on brokerages and less on captive agents as a way to control costs,” the BLS predicts. Higher demand for agents also is tied to the industry’s ongoing search for “a steady stream of new customers,” say the researchers.

Multilingual agents in demand

The report also highlights solid job prospects for multilingual agents and college graduates with top-flight sales and customer-service skills. Others who are expected to benefit from the strong demand are agents with expertise in a range of insurance and financial services products, and those with command of technical and legal terms.

The uptick in agent employment wasn’t surprising to Madelyn Flannagan, vice president of agent development, research and education at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. “We consistently hear from our member agents who are seeking new talent and want to hire new producers to grow their agencies and expand their markets,” she reports.

Another factor contributing to the bright prospects for agents and brokers is the growing importance of healthcare reform compliance. “With many new consumers seeking coverage under the ACA, they are finding the trusted advice of an agent very important,” Flannagan notes. “Thus the number of agents with expertise in that area will likely continue to grow.”

The U.S. employment forecast for agents and brokers wasn’t entirely rosy, however. While 13,700 jobs were added for October and November 2015 – reportedly the largest two-month gain in the past 25 years – 7,800 jobs were lost in December and January 2015. In addition, the BLS noted that “agents may face some competition from traditional securities brokers and bankers who also sell insurance policies.”

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