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Insurance agents tend to make decent money: nationally, they earned an average $62,970 in May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But in certain cities across the United States, their average annual wage was significantly higher -- almost double in some places.
And they weren't the places you'd expect. In many industries, salaries tend to be highest in major metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, where pay and cost of living are higher across the board. Not so for insurance. Of the 10 highest-paying cities for insurance sales agents, most are small, and some are downright sleepy. That's according to the BLS' Occupational Employment Statistics from May 2011.
The low-key, Midwestern cities Bloomington and Normal, Ill., (combined population: 129,107) may seem like unlikely spots for the highest salaries for insurance sales agents. But agents there pulled in an average $114,320. That's not so surprising when you consider that Bloomington is home to the corporate headquarters of State Farm Insurance, which opened its doors there in 1922. Besides the average six-figure salary for the area, State Farm employees can take advantage of a 99-acre company-owned recreation area with a brand new water park.
Other cities on the list make Bloomington-Normal seem big by comparison. Third-ranked El Centro, Calif., has a population of 41,241, and Glens Falls, N.Y., ranked fourth, has a population of just 13,852. Although Glens Falls is a small town, it's a regional hub with some major employers, companies like Navilyst Medical Manufacturing and Arrow Financial Corporation.
However, a few sizeable cities did make the top-paying list. For example, the Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Ventura metropolitan area, ranked tenth, has a pretty good-sized population (about 430,000) and is located just north of Los Angeles. Also in California, the Oakland, Fremont and Hayward metropolitan area, ranked ninth, has a population around 749,000.
Seventh-ranked Philadelphia, the only big city on the list, with a population of 1.5 million, is home to the world headquarters of Cigna, the health insurance and health services company, as well as Lincoln Financial Group, which focuses on life insurance and annuities as well as other areas. Penn Mutual, the mutual life insurance company, is headquartered just outside the city in Horsham, Pa.
Philadelphia is also a city where large numbers of insurance agents are employed: about 6,440 worked there in May 2011, according to the BLS data. That makes it fifth in the nation when it comes to insurance agent employment.
The rest of the high-paying cities had relatively tiny numbers of insurance agents. No estimate was released for Bloomington-Normal, but eight of the cities had no more than a few hundred. The Oakland area was the only city besides Philadelphia to crack 1,000, with 1,620 agents. So the agents in these towns are elite both in their numbers and their comfortable salaries.
1. Bloomington-Normal, Ill.
Average annual salary: $114,320
2. St. Joseph, Mo.-Kan.
Average annual salary: $107,200
3. El Centro, Calif.
Average annual salary: $103,870
4. Glens Falls, N.Y.
Average annual salary: $98,430
5. Santa Rosa and Petaluma, Calif.
Average annual salary: $97,710
6. New Bedford, Mass.
Average annual salary: $92,720
7. Philadelphia, Pa.
Average annual salary: $92,240
8. Charlottsville, Va.
Average annual salary: $91,730
9. Oakland, Fremont and Hayward metropolitan area, Calif.
Average annual salary: $91,700
10. Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Ventura metropolitan area, Calif.
Average annual salary: $90,930
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