The U.S. legal industry lost 4,300 jobs in July following three prior months of job gains, according to preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly employment report on Friday, showing the decline in legal services sector, which employed a provisional total of 1,126,400 people in July. BLS also issued a slight revision to the legal services employment figures for June, adjusting that total down by 100 jobs compared with preliminary figures released in early July.
The employment numbers—which take account of lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries, among other occupations—come after the legal industry experienced three straight months of job growth, beginning in April. Despite the declines shown in July’s figures, the number of people working in the U.S. legal sector is still up by only 600 jobs since January.
The drop in legal services jobs in July also comes as the U.S. economy’s employment situation reportedly beat economists’ expectations, adding an overall total of 209,000 jobs in the month with an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent.
The BLS data from Friday falls in line with the general trend in the legal services sector over the past few years. Since June 2013, the industry’s total number of jobs has generally fluctuated between about 1.12 million and 1.13 million jobs. Those figures amount to roughly 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.
The release of Friday’s jobs report also comes the same week that the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released its annual analysis on new associate hiring by the nation’s largest law firms.
As noted by The American Lawyer, NALP’s latest report showed that firms with 500 or more lawyers increased their hiring by 6 percent, while smaller firms brought aboard fewer new associates. The largest firms hired 4,238 members of the class of 2016, compared with 4,007 in 2015, NALP found.
Associate positions at firms with 500 or more lawyers accounted for 25 percent of all law firm jobs secured by 2016 law school graduates, up from 23 percent the previous year, according to NALP.
Some of the country’s largest firms have experienced employment setbacks in 2017, which has seen reports of job cuts at Andrews Kurth Kenyon, Dentons, Sedgwick and Seyfarth Shaw. Last week Portland, Oregon-based Am Law 200 firm Stoel Rives confirmed that it would shed 17 administrative staff members in connection with a strategic plan to revamp its operations.