Disability insurance claim headaches have drawn securities analysts’ attention during the early days of the second-quarter earnings release season.

Reinsurance Group of America Inc., Chesterfield, Mo. (NYSE:RGA), a reinsurer, says overall net income and revenue were both higher in the second quarter than in the second quarter of 2010, but it says disability claims were a concern for its U.S. operations.

“Income was adversely affected by higher-than-expected group disability claims, which are prone to quarterly volatility,” RGA says.

StanCorp Financial Group Inc., Portland, Ore. (NYSE: SFG), a direct writer, says its earnings dropped during the quarter. The company is reporting $19 million in net income for the second quarter on $706 million in revenue, compared with $41 million in net income on $691 in revenue for the second quarter of 2010.

StanCorp is attributing the drop in net income to an increase in long-term disability (LTD) claims for group and individual insurance businesses.

The benefit ratio for group insurance products rose to 84.8% for the second quarter of 2011, up from 79.9% for the second quarter of 2010, and 12% above the historical average.

Traditionally, disability insurance claims have spiked during recessions.

Shortly after the current downturn began in 2008, disability insurance executives said the level of

disability claims was surprisingly low, given the state of the job market.

This year, “we continue to see a correlation between incidence levels and the employment growth of our customers,” StanCorp President Greg Ness said during a company earnings call.

For groups which have seen moderate employment growth, there has been a minimal increase in claims compared with the claims rate for the comparable quarter in 2010.

For groups with no employment growth, claims increased 11%, and for groups with employment losses, claims increased 15%.

“In response to these recent claim trends, we have taken pricing action to get our profitability back to targeted levels,” Ness said.

Price increases on both new and renewal sales have been in the high single-digit range, StanCorp executives said.

“We believe that profitability will improve both as the economy recovers and these pricing actions take hold,” Ness said.

Over at RGA, RGA President Greig Woodring was asked about the implications of StanCorp’s drop in profitability for the disability insurance reinsurance market during the RGA earnings call.

“There really is not any place we are overly concerned about, nor are we concerned about the profitability of that line as a whole,” Woodring said. “So far, the line has performed excellently for us.”

Other disability insurance coverage from National Underwriter Life & Health: