After three straight months of gains on the employment front, the legal industry lost 900 jobs in October, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The losses ended the positive momentum the industry built up from July through September, when—according to revised hiring figures for those months that were also included in Friday’s report—U.S. employers added a total of 5,400 legal jobs to their payrolls. The revisions included bumping the original September estimate for legal industry hiring—which, along with the broader BLS report for the month, was delayed by the government shutdown—up from 1,100 jobs added to 1,200.
As of the end of October, the legal industry employed 4,100 more people than it did at the same point last year, with roughly 1.129 million people all told holding legal sector jobs. Even after accounting for last month’s dip, the industry still employs more people now than it did at any time between 2010 and 2012.
In suffering even slight losses, the legal industry fared worse last month than the broader economy, which added 204,000 positions amid concerns that the government shutdown would hamper hiring. In another bit of good news, the bureau’s revised hiring figures for August and September showed that the economy added 60,000 more jobs during those two months than previously estimated. Those gains aside, the national unemployment rate ticked up from 7.2 percent to 7.3 percent. The BLS blamed the increase on the fact that the unemployment rate is tied to a separate survey that counted furloughed federal employees as being out of work.
Despite the year’s modest overall improvements in both the broader economy and the legal sector specifically, Am Law 200 firms have made their share of staff cuts as they try to rein in expenses amid slack demand for their services. Most recently, according to a firmwide memo obtained by Above the Law that described the move as being driven by “evolving market conditions,” Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is laying off a total of 29 support staffers in New York and Washington, D.C. Contacted for comment, a Fried Frank spokesman told The Am Law Daily that the firm does not comment on personnel matters.