New York Life Insurance Co. hired 3,554 financial representatives last year, an 8.4% increase.

More than half the agents recruited were women or minorities. The company hired 9% more women than in 2007, and women made up about a third of the agents it hired, it said last week.

Thirty-five percent of the agents hired in 2008 serve New York Life's "cultural markets," which include the Hispanic, Chinese, Asian-Indian, Korean, African-American and Vietnamese markets.

It was also a record year for New York Life's on-campus recruiting program. More than 10% of new agents were hired through it.

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