The American legal industry employed 200 fewer people in February than in the prior month, despite a positive job growth report for the overall U.S. economy, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
In its monthly look at the nation’s employment situation, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 1,135,700 people worked in the legal services sector in February. The legal industry figures are provisional, meaning they could be revised later, and seasonally adjusted. The legal services data cover lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and other law-related professions.
Friday’s employment release follows recent news of an employment shakeup affecting one of the largest law firms in the United States. In early February, the firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer confirmed that it planned to offer voluntary buyout packages to its legal secretaries.
The firm’s chairman, Richard Alexander, stressed in an interview with The National Law Journal that the buyouts had nothing to do with Arnold & Porter’s financial health, but rather stemmed from a look at how it and the firm’s competitors were offering legal secretarial services. Alexander said the buyout would be offered to 140 U.S.-based secretaries at Arnold & Porter, but he expected only a handful would elect to participate. The Arnold & Porter chairman said the move was not a layoff or a “prelude to a layoff.”
While Friday’s employment release from BLS shows a slight dropoff in the number of legal services jobs in the United States, the country’s economy as a whole enjoyed strong job growth results in February. The agency reported that the U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February, marking the country’s 89th consecutive month of job growth. The results reportedly outpaced the expectations of economists, who had anticipated that about 200,000 jobs would be added in the month.
The country’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in February at 4.1 percent, while average wages for non-farm jobs increased by $0.04 to an hourly rate of $26.75. The wage increase in February came on top of a $0.07 increase in January, according to BLS.