Total individual life insurance new annualized premium slipped 1% year over year to $3.76 billion in the first quarter, according to LIMRA’s preliminary U.S. Life Insurance Sales Survey.

The total number of policies sold also dropped 1% in the first quarter. The decline doesn’t mean a lack of positive news within the numbers, said John Carroll senior vice president, head of Life & Annuities, LIMRA and LOMA. “Overall, a large proportion of carriers reported gains in both premium (7 in 10) and policy sales (6 in 10) in the first quarter. Every product line except whole life posted positive growth,” he said. “The industry must innovate to reach underserved markets and grow the U.S. market.

The 2024 Insurance Barometer Study shows there are more than 100 million Americans who say they need, or need more, life insurance, Carroll noted. “It is important that we continue to leverage digital advances to make it easier for today’s consumer to learn about and buy the life insurance they need to protect their loved ones,” he added.

Life insurance premium had been on the upswing in recent quarters. LIMRA provided a breakdown of new premium sold in each category:

Term life

Term new premium rose 2% in the first quarter to $724 million with 8 in 10 carriers seeing growth. Policy count also grew 2% for the quarter with 7 in 10 carriers up for the period. This is the fifth consecutive quarter of growth in both premium and policy sales.

Increases likely continue to reflect digital platform/underwriting expansion, additional distribution partners and product enhancements. In the first quarter, term new annualized premium held a 19% share of the total U.S. individual life insurance market.

Whole life

Whole life new premium totaled $1.43 billion in the first quarter, down 8% from prior year’s result. Half of the top 10 whole life carriers reported declines in the quarter. The number of whole life policies sold fell 5% in the first quarter, compared with first quarter 2023.

Despite the decline, whole life remains the dominant product in the U.S. market, representing 38% of the total new annualized premium sold in the first quarter.

“While rising interest rates favor fixed annuities, other life insurance products and non-insurance financial products like CDs and bonds, it can make whole life products less attractive,” said Karen Terry, assistant vice president and head of LIMRA Insurance Product Research. “In a high interest rate environment, dividend scales cannot compete with other interest rate sensitive products, which can offer better returns. As a result, a majority of whole life carriers reported declines in the first quarter.”

Indexed universal life

First quarter 2024 indexed universal life premium was $930 million, 4% higher than results from prior year. More than 6 in 10 carriers reported gains in both premium and policy count in the first quarter. IUL premium represented 25% of the total new annualized premium in the first quarter.

Variable universal life

Variable universal life new premium increased 4% in the first quarter to $427 million. Nearly half of the VUL carriers reported sales growth, although results were strongly driven by a small group of carriers. Policy count, however, fell 4% compared with first quarter 2023. VUL premium held 11% of the total U.S. life insurance market in the first quarter.

Fixed universal life

For the third consecutive quarter, fixed universal life new premium increased. In the first quarter, fixed UL new premium was $250 million, up 9% year over year. The number of policies sold fell 11% from first quarter 2023 results.

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