Industry Update

Premiums Impacted by Wage Growth

A halt in wage stagnation is expected to have an impact on workers' comp, particularly in certain industries.
By: | August 4, 2017 • 2 min read

The stock market may rise, unemployment drop, the dollar soar, but the one economic indicator that has perennially baffled economists and politicians alike has been wage growth relative to economy-wide productivity.

According to this year’s NCCI report, however, wage stagnation which began in 1973 is relaxing a bit. Average weekly wages should increase by 3.4 percent this year, it predicts, accelerating to 4.8 percent growth in 2018. That, say some, may have a direct impact on workers’ comp premiums.

Dan Hair, Chief Risk Officer, senior vice president, Safety and Underwriting, WCF Insurance

“Yes, you’re going to get more premium,” said Dan Hair, Chief Risk Officer, senior vice president, Safety and Underwriting for WCF Insurance, though in the current economy it’s being driven, he believes, by the addition of new employees rather than salary growth.

“It generally correlates with a robust economy, which we certainly have here in the inner mountain west. But it’s growth in certain types of industry, particularly construction.”

Adam Doyle, an underwriter at BITCO Insurance Companies agrees. Increased construction activity has been felt in the 10 states in which BITCO underwrites, especially Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Delaware and Maryland. Doyle “loves” higher payrolls.

“But it’s not like a rate change; you simply get more premiums which is nice and obviously good for the economy.”

Along with increased average wage growth in construction naturally comes higher indemnity severity. “Indemnity case severity has basically been increasing the last five to 10 years, even during the recession,” said Hair.


For his part, Matthew Zender, VP and product manager for AmTrust North America, disputes part of the premise. Yes, wage growth often correlates to an increase in indemnity severity, but is not always the sole contributor, he said.

Employment growth “tends to achieve a more direct line into indemnity severity,” said Zender. Newer employees “are generally less familiar with their job functions and surroundings and are much more likely to suffer a claim.”

But Zender also noted that increased premium tends to offset wage growth, citing a combined ratio 3 percent lower from 2007-2016 than during the years of 1995-2006 — despite increases in wage growth. “Clearly, if one had the ability to place the increase that is strictly attributed to new employees into a separate tranche, that business by itself would perform worse,” said Zender.

Matthew Zender, VP and product manager, AmTrust North America

Zender’s numbers also show that while medical and indemnity costs continue to rise, the pace of their growth has slowed. From 1995 to 2001, medical costs jumped more than 72 percent; those increases dwindled to a little more than 14 percent between 2009 and 2016. That jives with Hair’s assessment of medical cost increases.

“Carriers are getting more sophisticated in their billing and their analysis. So that doesn’t surprise me. But the benign rate of medical inflation over the last few years, I just don’t see that continuing.”

To Zender’s comment that increased premium tends to offset wage growth, it all counts, adds Hair. “Whether it’s wage growth or medical inflation or whatever, it really does get incorporated into the rate-making process.” Regional differences on how wage growth impacts workers’ comp are also relevant, said Hair, including, among other things, litigation rates in states and regions.

David Godkin is a freelance magazine writer based in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

R&I: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. health care industry and why?

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant at which you’ve eaten?

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Eating that duck at Liqun!

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

They’re not really sure!

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]