For the first time since 2008, credit unions added a significant number of new employees to their payrolls.
According to information released Monday by CUNA, the number of full-time equivalent employees in the credit union industry increased to 249,399 in 2012, representing a 2.9% increase over 2011.
CUNA sourced NCUA financial performance reports, as well as other sources that reported employees at privately insured credit unions, to reach its conclusions.
The nearly 3% gain marks a return to historic norms, said CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel. Full-time equivalent employees, which combine both full and part time employees, increased by 3.3% in 2006, 3.5% in 2007 and 2.1% in 2008. However, full time equivalent counts decreased by -1.1% in 2009, fell by 0.4% in 2010 and recovered only slightly in 2011, with a 0.7% increase.
The nearly 250,000 full time equivalents is higher than the peak figure of 244,245 reported in 2008, as the recession was beginning to take its toll on credit unions. However, that comprehensive gain has come from more full-time employees, with 233,596 reported in 2012, up from a high of 227,077 reported in 2008. Comparatively, there were just 31,605 part time employees in 2012, still below a peak of 34,809 in 2007.
Hampel said the new employees are further evidence credit unions are putting more space between them and the recession. Postponing hiring was one strategy credit unions utilized during the recession to protect net worth and their bottom lines, he said.
The CUNA economist added that despite the payroll increases, credit union efficiency ratios did not increase.
“That’s a good sign, because it means the expense reductions over the last several years have come from efficiencies, not from just postponing hiring,” he said.
The employee gains are also a sign credit union leaders are more optimistic about the future, Hampel said.