Employment in the U.S. legal sector remained largely unchanged in August, adding 100 jobs alongside modest employment gains posted by the U.S. economy overall, according to preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its monthly report on the employment situation in various industries, showing that 1,126,300 people held jobs in the legal services industry in August. The figures take account of lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and other occupations within the legal sector. The data is seasonally adjusted and provisional, so BLS could revise it later.
The slight uptick in August comes after the number of U.S. legal jobs declined in July. On Friday, BLS revised July’s figures downward by 200 jobs from the initial provisional data released last month. Prior to July, the industry had seen three consecutive months of job growth.
The BLS data for August kept the legal services employment data in line with the general trend over the past few years. Since June 2013, the industry’s total number of jobs has fluctuated between about 1.12 million and 1.13 million jobs—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.
So far this year, some large law firms have suffered employment setbacks, with reports of job cuts happening at Andrews Kurth Kenyon, Dentons, Sedgwick and Seyfarth Shaw. Stoel Rives, a Portland, Oregon-based Am Law 200 firm, also confirmed in late July that a strategic plan to revamp the firm’s operations would result in the loss of 17 administrative staff jobs.
Overall, the U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in August and the nationwide unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent, compared with 4.3 percent in July, according to the preliminary BLS data. The country’s unemployment rate has been stable for several months in a row—coming in at either 4.3 percent or 4.4 percent since April.
With its latest report on Friday, BLS also issued a special message about Hurricane Harvey, explaining that it had “no discernable effect” on last month’s employment figures, as most of the data was already collected by the time the storm hit Texas.
The hurricane has, however, had an impact on the legal community more generally, shutting down local courts, law schools and law firms, as well as flooding lawyers’ homes, as noted by sibling publication Texas Lawyer. Lawyers and legal aid staffers have joined other volunteers in setting up cots and handing out information on those in need of legal services.