Total U.S. life insurance new annualized premium grew 5 percent in the fourth quarter, resulting in a 3 percent increase in 2016, according to LIMRA’s Fourth Quarter Retail Life Insurance Sales Survey.

In the fourth quarter, policy count fell 4 percent and as a result, policy count growth was flat for 2016.

“As we have seen over the past several years, whole life sales were instrumental in overall life insurance premium growth in 2016,” said Ashley Durham, associate research director, LIMRA Insurance Research. “Since the economic downturn, the U.S. life insurance market has experienced steady growth, with overall premium sales increasing by more than 20 percent.”

Related: Individual life insurance premium up slightly for first half of 2016

Whole life insurance new annualized premium jumped 11 percent in the fourth quarter. For the year, whole life premium improved 9 percent.  Seven of the top 10 whole life writers reported growth in the fourth quarter. This was the 11th consecutive year of growth for whole life premium, which has never happened since LIMRA started reporting on product-level data in 1983.

WL represented 36 percent of the total life market in 2016.

Universal life (UL) new annualized premium increased 6 percent in the fourth quarter. Both indexed UL (IUL) and lifetime guarantee UL (LTG) recorded growth in the quarter, which has not occurred in more than three years. 

UL premium growth was flat for the year.  Total UL represented 37 percent of all life insurance sales in 2016.

IUL premium improved 2 percent in the fourth quarter and 1 percent in 2016. Half of the IUL writers reported growth. Before the implementation of regulation AG49 (designed to make the illustrations more consistent), IUL sales grew by double digits, on average more than 25 percent annually since 2007.

In 2016, IUL represented 56 percent of UL and 21 percent of all individual life premium

LTG premium jumped 23 percent, compared with fourth quarter 2015. This is the strongest quarterly growth of LTG products since fourth quarter 2012. LIMRA attributes growth to increased focus on the market and improved competitive positions. Year-end, LTG premium increased 5 percent.

LTG UL represents 21 percent of UL sales and 8 percent of total life premium for the year.

Variable universal life (VUL) new annualized premium dropped 9 percent in the fourth quarter with only 3 in 10 carriers reporting VUL growth in the quarter. For the year, VUL premium fell 11 percent.

VUL market share was 6 percent of total sales in 2016, far lower than the 33 percent market share held in 2000.

After eight consecutive quarters of growth, term life insurance new annualized premium fell 1 percent in the fourth quarter. However, term premium ended 2016 1 percent higher than prior year. Term market share was 21 percent in 2016.  It has been in the 21-22 range since 2011.

The latest data table and additional statistics on U.S. life insurance sales trends can be found in the newly updated Data Bank.

Life insurance premium increased 3 percent in 2016