After losing 500 jobs in November, U.S. legal sector employment rebounded in December, adding 2,000 jobs, according to preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Labor Department.
The monthly jobs report from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the legal services industry employed 1,127,600 in December, though the figures could be revised. The total is 2,000 jobs higher than the 1,125,600 people employed in the sector in November, according to BLS data.
Legal industry employment grew over the course of 2016, albeit with some ups and downs, the BLS data show. The preliminary December jobs total marks an increase of 4,100 jobs compared with January 2016.
The number of jobs in the legal industry has hovered around 1.13 million since June 2013, and the sector still remains more than 52,000 jobs shy of its pre-recession high in 2007. Those jobs may be difficult to recover amid lagging demand for legal services, and as legal departments and law firms continue to automate services in an effort to cut costs.
The growth in legal services jobs comes as the overall U.S. economy gained a lackluster 156,000 jobs in December, while average hourly earnings in non-farm jobs edged up by 10 cents, according to the preliminary BLS data. The country’s unemployment rate remained relatively flat, rising to 4.7 percent in December from 4.6 percent in November.
The growth in legal services employment last month ran parallel to an increase in other parts of the professional and technical services sector, which includes accountants and management consultants, among others. The professional and technical services industry gained 6,600 jobs in December, according to the preliminary BLS figures, with the largest gains coming in the field of management and technical consulting.
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