The size of the legal services industry shrunk in November, dropping 2,400 jobs over the prior month, even as the U.S. economy overall gained 155,000 jobs and unemployment remained steady at its lowest rate in nearly half a century, the Department of Labor reported on Friday.
In its latest monthly look at employment in the U.S., the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed some 1,135,700 people worked in legal services in November, a figure that includes lawyers, paralegals, legal assistants and other law-related professions. The BLS data is seasonally adjusted and provisional, meaning it could be revised in later months.
November’s dip in legal sector jobs follows two straight months of job growth. According to revised data released on Friday, the legal services industry added 1,400 jobs in September and 200 more in October.
With the 2,400 jobs lost in November, the total number of people employed in legal services drops close to 2018’s monthly lows in February and March. This November’s total is also 100 jobs fewer than in November 2017, when the industry employed 1,135,800 people, according to BLS.
The legal sector jobs report follows other, more positive employment-related developments in the industry. Specifically, associates at some law firms learned in November that they would receive a healthy annual bonus for 2018.
A few days before the Thanksgiving holiday, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, as it often does, set a standard for the industry when word came that its associates would receive bonuses ranging from $15,000 to $100,000.
Several other firms swiftly matched the Cravath scale, including Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy; Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Meanwhile, some recently launched boutique firms—such as Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz and Kaplan Hecker & Fink—surpassed the Cravath levels, with Kaplan Hecker offering bonuses of $25,000 to $130,000 to their associates and Wilkinson Walsh offering 150 percent of the Cravath scale, a range of $22,500 to $150,000.
Despite the lower legal sector job numbers, the U.S. economy as a whole had a more positive employment outlook in November, the labor agency reported.
The country added 155,000 jobs over last month’s total in October, according to BLS data. That figure continues a more than eight-year streak of continuous monthly job growth, but it also falls short of the 198,000 jobs that Wall Street economists reportedly expected the economy to add in November.
The national unemployment rate remained flat at 3.7 percent, staying at a historical low that hasn’t been seen since the Vietnam War era in the late-1960s, according to historical BLS data.
The unemployment and job growth numbers also came as wages ticked up in November. Employees on private, nonfarm payrolls saw their average hourly earnings increase by 6 cents, reaching $27.35 per hour. That amounts to an 81 cent wage hike over the course of 2018—an increase of 3.1 percent during that time frame, BLS said.