Continuing its recent run of positive momentum on the employment front, the legal sector added 1,100 jobs last month, according to preliminary data issued Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The September figures—released several weeks later than usual as a result of the federal government shutdown—showed the broader economy adding far fewer jobs than many experts had expected. As for the legal industry specifically, September’s hiring uptick follows the even greater job gains recorded in July and August and boosts the total number of people employed in the legal sector to 1.13 million.
Factoring in last month’s new jobs, there are now 6,600 more people working in the legal profession than there were at this time last year. Tuesday’s BLS report also included revised hiring data for August showing that the legal industry added 3,100 positions that month, up from the 2,700 the agency initially estimated. Overall, the BLS reports, through the first three quarters there were more people employed in the legal sector than at any point since 2009.
The good news notwithstanding, several Am Law 200 firms have cut jobs in recent weeks—particularly among legal secretaries and other staffers who have seen their duties outsourced or reduced—in an effort to rein in costs in what continues to be a stagnant market for legal services.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, for instance, eliminated 35 secretarial positions, primarily in its Palo Alto headquarters, at the end of September. Other firms trimming their payrolls in the past month include Debevoise & Plimpton (which offered voluntary retirement to secretaries in addition to “a small number of head count reductions”), Vedder Price (which outsourced a reported 32 positions) and Paul Hastings (which did the same with 15 technology jobs), according to Above the Law.
Sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer analyzed some of the recent layoffs late last month, citing legal consultants who see additional layoffs as inevitable given that firms are keen to increase profits while investing in technology upgrades that reduce the need for clerical help.
Overall, according to Tuesday’s BLS report, the U.S. economy added 148,000 total nonfarm payroll jobs in September, and the country’s unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged at 7.2 percent. The construction, wholesale trade, and transportation and warehousing industries saw the greatest boost in jobs.