(Fotolia)

The legal sector shed 700 jobs in May to bring the total number of people employed in the industry to its lowest level since the start of the year, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The news contained in Friday’s BLS report was even bleaker for the legal industry once the agency’s revised hiring data for April was factored in. Those statistics showed the sector losing 2,100 jobs that month—significantly more than the original 1,200-job estimate.

All told, there were 1.135 million people working in law-related jobs at the end of May, according to Friday’s BLS report. While that is 1,200 more than were employed in the legal sector at the same time last year, the figure reflects a net loss of 100 jobs since the start of 2014.

The legal industry’s lagging performance on the hiring front last month stood in stark contrast to the employment gains made by the broader U.S. economy, which added an estimated 217,000 nonfarm jobs in May, many of them in the professional and business services sectors.

As a result of the latest uptick in hiring, the country has now regained all 8.7 million jobs it lost in the recession. Despite the job growth, the U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3 percent—1.2 percent below where it stood a year ago.