AP Photo: Ted S. Warren

Confidence among carriers, brokers, and vendors in the voluntary employee benefits industry rose in 2011, according to a new survey.

Eastbridge Consulting Group, Avon, Conn., published this finding in a summary of results from a new survey of voluntary employee benefits. The company conducts the survey semi-annually and includes responses from individuals active in the market, among them carriers, brokers, vendors and employees.

The survey determines industry confidence based on a “confidence index,” a single number that compares current results to a baseline measure. The index is calculated using three key expectation measures about the voluntary industry: sales growth; profitability of the industry; and employee enthusiasm about voluntary products.

Confidence in the voluntary industry, which encompasses companies that sell optional employer-provided disability income, long-term care, life insurance, annuities and other insurance products, increased in Eastbridge’s Confidence Index to 99.7 at year-end 2011 from 98.4 in a mid-year 2011 survey.

Eastbridge President Gil Lowerre says the percentage of respondents who expect lower profitability declined to 8% from 18% at mid-year. And the percentage expecting increased profitability rose to 54%.

Additionally, the survey pegged the percentage of respondents expecting sales growth in 2012 at 95%. Among the index’s three measures, only employee enthusiasm declined, dipping to 3.80 from 3.82, Eastbridge says.