Strong demand for permanent life products led to a solid gain in new annualized premiums from and a small gain in the number of individual life policies sold in the United States during the first quarter.

Total annualized premium revenue from new U.S. individual life sales was 8% higher during the first quarter than in the first quarter of 2010, according to LIMRA, Windsor, Conn.

The number of sales sold increased 2%.

LIMRA has based those figures on results from a quarterly survey of life insurers.Personal protection

LIMRA researchers found a deep divide between production of term life coverage and permanent life coverage.

On the term side, the policy count and new annualized premium revenue were down 11%.

On the permanent side, annualized premiums were up 14% for both universal life (UL) and variable universal life (VUL). They were up 15% for whole life.

The number of policies sold fell 11% for VUL policies, despite the increase in premium volume, but the number of policies sold increased 9% for whole life and 18% for UL policies.

LIMRA analysts are calling the first quarter promising.

“Impressively, 65%of companies were able to increase their sales over first quarter of 2010,” Ashley Durham, a LIMRA senior analyst, says in a statement about the first-quarter figures.

Sales of the lowest-cost UL products, which come with no long-term secondary guarantees, and sales of indexed UL products, were especially strong, LIMRA says.

Sales of UL products with long-term secondary guarantees increased 4%. Growth in sales of UL products with long-term guarantees may have been slow partly because some insurers have left that segment of the market, LIMRA says.

Other life sales coverage from National Underwriter Life & Health: