The U.S. legal industry added 2,000 jobs in June as the country’s overall economy also posted employment gains, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an uptick in legal jobs in its monthly employment report for the third straight month. The legal services industry employed 1,130,800 people in June, compared with 1,128,800 in May, according to seasonally-adjusted BLS jobs data. The figures are provisional and could be revised.
June’s legal employment numbers—which take account of lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries, among other occupations—come on the heels of job gains in the industry in April and May.
Earlier in the year, the industry had suffered some reductions in the number of people employed, dropping by about 2,500 jobs from January to March. Since then, however, the legal services sector has added about 7,500 jobs, according to the preliminary BLS data released Friday.
The number of jobs in the legal services sector has gone through ups and downs over the past several years but since June 2013, it has generally hovered between 1.12 million and 1.13 million. That amounts to at least 50,000 fewer jobs than the industry’s pre-recession high of 1.18 million jobs in May 2007, according to historical Labor Department data.
Despite the uptick in legal industry jobs reported on Friday, the past several months have seen some turbulence in employment at large law firms. In March there were reports of job cuts at Andrews Kurth Kenyon. And Dentons, which had reported staff layoffs in March, also asked several partners to leave following a budget shortfall in 2016, The American Lawyer reported in April.
More recently, Seyfarth Shaw confirmed that it, too, would cut lawyer and staff jobs in light of soft demand in the first quarter of 2017. According to reports in May, the Seyfarth layoffs affected as many as 40 lawyers and staff members. And this week, Texas Lawyer reported that Sedgwick had closed its Austin office, which had housed three lawyers and a paralegal. For that firm, the Austin closing came after similar moves in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and in Houston.
The legal jobs figures from BLS on Friday come alongside a positive employment report for the U.S. economy overall, which added 220,000 jobs in June, according to the preliminary BLS data. The economy has averaged 194,000 job gains over the past three months, BLS said. And the nation’s unemployment rate remained relatively steady at 4.4 percent, down about 0.4 percent from what it was in January.
The Labor Department also reported a small increase in hourly wages for private, nonfarm jobs. The average hourly earnings rose to $26.25 in June, up 4 cents from the prior month, according to the preliminary BLS data.
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