American-Bar-Association-Article-201608021355A smaller class of law graduates in 2016 once again helped bolster new lawyer employment rates.

According to new jobs data released Thursday by the American Bar Association, 78.6 percent of 2016 law graduates had secured jobs that either require a law degree or for which a law degree is an advantage within 10 months of leaving campus. That’s up more than 2 percent from the previous year.

But the higher employment rate is due to the fact that there were nearly 3,000 fewer law grads last year than there were in 2015, not because the market for entry-level lawyers expanded. The actual number of recent graduates in J.D.-required or J.D.-advantage jobs fell more than 4 percent. Still, fewer graduates meant less competition for available law jobs, which improved the overall prospects for 2016 law graduates.

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The percentage of 2016 graduates in full-time, long-term jobs that require a law degree—considered the gold standard—was 64.5 percent, up from 62.4 percent in 2015. Another 14.1 percent of 2016 gradates landed full-time, long-term J.D. advantage jobs, up slightly from 13.8 percent the previous year.

Among recent graduates, 8.8 percent were unemployed and seeking work 10 month after graduation, down nearly a percent from 2015.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ