Workers compensation insurers have taken a beating from both the soft insurance market and the recession, which has reduced the number of employees that companies need to insure. The industry's written premium dropped 23% in the last two years, according to a recent report from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), which tracks workers comp data.

The workers comp industry's combined ratio–the percentage of premiums paid out in expenses and losses–jumped to 110% last year from 101% in 2008, according to NCCI, which says that's the biggest one-year increase since the mid-1980s.

The organization describes the industry's position as "precarious" and cites other challenges facing workers comp insurers, including the low interest rates currently earned on investments, the possible effects of healthcare reform, the prospect of changes to U.S. financial regulations, and the rate at which the economy and employment will pick up speed.

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