February was yet another tough month for the U.S. legal industry.
According to a 30-page report issued on Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of individuals employed in legal services shrank by 4,200 in February.
The 0.36 percent drop from January's numbers reflects a continued series of layoffs by U.S. firms.
On Thursday alone, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman confirmed it was letting go 155 lawyers and staff, Wiggin & Dana cut 28 legal and administrative positions and Arent Fox announced that it was laying off 13 associates. The day before, sibling publication Texas Lawyer reported that Andrews Kurth had quietly cut 20 lawyers in recent weeks.
BLS data shows that since February 2008, roughly 21,000 jobs have been lost in the U.S. legal sector. (BLS data is seasonally adjusted. When not adjusted, 3,700 jobs were cut in February.)
On Tuesday the Federal Reserve's Beige Book report, which outlines economic conditions in each of the Fed's 12 districts, stated that demand for professional services like legal and accounting "continued to fall" across almost all districts.
The Beige Book report states that only Dallas posted a "modest increase, albeit less-than-expected, in demand for legal services due to increased bankruptcy proceedings."
As a whole, the U.S. economy shed 651,000 jobs in February and the national unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent. In January, the BLS reported the unemployment rate to be 7.6 percent.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.