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The percentage of life insurers that say they expect to increase the size of their staffs increased to 53% in January, from 50% in July 2010, and the percentage that expect to downsize has fallen to 5%, from 13%.

The Jacobson Group, Chicago, an insurance employment firm, and the Ward Group, Cincinnati, a data analysis firm, have published those figures in a summary of results from a survey of 106 U.S. and Canadian insurers conducted earlier this year and a similar study conducted about 6 Upmonths earlier. The survey series began in July 2009.

About 18% of the insurers in the latest survey were life and health insurers.

For all participating insurers, the percentage saying they expect to expand their staffs has increased to 44% in January, from 35% in July 2009, and the percentage that say they expect to cut back has fallen to 13%, from 21%, over that same period.

Jacobson and Ward also asked participants what they think will happen to their companies’ revenue over the next 12 months: 10% said revenue will decline, 19% said revenue will stay flat, and 56% said revenue will rise.

“The fact that more insurers expect to grow revenue than staff may reflect the feeling among many companies that they are still currently overstaffed compared to where they need to be to meet profit objectives,” Jeff Rieder, president of the Ward Group, said during a teleconference on the survey results.

But the percentage of insurers that anticipate reducing

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staff is the lowest percentage measured since the survey series started in July 2009, Rieder said.

About 9.4% of the participants said their companies could expand their staffs by 10% or more in the coming year, up from 6.8% anticipating double-digit growth a year ago.

“In most cases, companies are expecting to increase staff by a higher percentage this year than at the same time last year,” Rieder said.

Many of the companies saying they expect to grow 10% to 20% are niche players, Rieder said. “They’re growing at higher rate than medium-size and large companies, which are largely maintaining current staff levels,” he said.

Rieder noted that life and health insurers expected to reduce the size of their staffs 0.6% in 2010 but ended up increasing staff sizes 5.1%.

“The life and health result was driven largely by health sector,” Rieder said. “Several companies were hiring as a result of health care reform.”