Thank goodness for whole life.

While many beneficiaries say that every day, the entire life insurance industry has been saying it all year.

Whole life sales grew 5% in the first quarter of 2011, 10% in the second quarter, and LIMRA recently announced 10% growth for the third quarter and for the first nine months overall. Whole life policy count is up 6% so far this year. Independent producers increased their whole life output by an impressive 18% in the third quarter.

The category has led total individual life insurance premium to 5% overall growth through the first nine months of 2011 and overall policy sales growth as well, according to LIMRA’s U.S. Individual Life Insurance Sales report.

“The good news is overall life insurance policy sales have improved 2% so far this year,” said LIMRA Senior Research Analyst Ashley Durham. “If you look back 25 years, we have only had two other years where policy count has improved, so this is a good sign that we are reaching more consumers.”

And apparently the more affluent consumers, at that. We know that most uninsured and underinsured Americans — the levels of which are at historic highs — are generally not in a position to purchase whole life and are not even buying much in the way of term life. High unemployment and the continued bleak economic climate have contributed to a 7% overall decrease in term life premium sales this year through September (down 4% in the third quarter). Term life policy count fell 5% for the quarter, and like premium is down 7% for the year.

The insurance gap between rich and poor — like the income gap — continues to widen. The rich get richer and are properly insured, while the middle class gets poorer and foregoes life insurance.

See Kenneth Shapiro’s 2012 Life Insurance Outlook.