Worksite sales increased nearly 4% percent to over $5.2 billion in 2008, up from about $5 billion in 2007, a research firm reports.

“We were quite pleased to see the industry still growing, despite the recession,” say Gil Lowerre, president of Eastbridge Consulting Group Inc., Avon, Conn. “We were not sure what to expect.”

Bonnie Brazzell, Eastbridge vice president, attributes much of the increase to 7 of the top 15 worksite companies reporting double-digit sales. Of these, 4 reported increases over 25%, she says.

“The average sales increase among the top 15 companies was 11%,” says Brazzell. “Just 3 of these top companies had decreases, and the level of decrease ranged from only 0.4% to 2%.”

Inforce premiums increased between 11% and 12% last year over the year before, up from a 6% increase reported in 2007, Eastbridge found. Based on tracked premium and estimates of the total market, the 2008 inforce worksite premium was between $17.4 billion and $22.9 billion, the company reports

Eastbridge bases estimates in its U.S. Worksite Sales on a survey of 62 worksite marketing carriers, both group (voluntary) and individual (worksite). It figures these companies accounted for over 90% of total worksite sales volume in 2008.