Legal sector employment experienced slight gains in September, adding 900 jobs over the prior month as the employment situation in the U.S. economy overall remained relatively flat, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
In its monthly jobs report, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that in September, 1,128,600 people were employed in the legal services industry, which includes lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and other law-related occupations. The seasonally adjusted BLS data is provisional and could be revised later.
September’s results mark a 900-job increase over the 1,127,700 people employed in legal services in August, according to BLS. That August figure was revised upward by 1,400 jobs from the initial data that the Labor Department issued last month. With September’s provisional increase, the legal services sector has now seen two consecutive months of job growth.
Still, the data for both September and August keep those months’ employment figures within the general trend that’s persisted over the last several years in the industry. Since June 2013, the legal services sector has largely hovered between 1.12 million and 1.13 million jobs, a range that puts employment in the industry about 50,000 jobs shy of its pre-recession peak in 2007, according to historical BLS data.
Friday’s release also comes amid recent reports of staff reductions at multiple law firms. In July, Portland, Oregon-based Am Law 200 firm Stoel Rives confirmed that a strategic plan it has in place would call for 17 administrative staff jobs to be cut.
Similar actions also appear to be in motion at Hogan Lovells and at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Hogan Lovells, which is also reducing jobs in the U.K., offered voluntary retirement packages to about 400 business staff in the U.S. The firm has now confirmed that as much as 12 percent of staffers accepted those packages, meaning that about 45 employees were impacted, according to The American Lawyer’s affiliate Legal Week.
Milbank, for its part, indicated in late September that it would offer voluntary buyout packages to its New York-based legal secretaries ahead of the law firm’s planned relocation in the city to Hudson Yards, a real estate development project on the west side of Manhattan.
Overall, Friday’s BLS data release showed a steady employment situation in September compared with the prior month. The U.S. economy lost 33,000 nonfarm jobs in September, while the employment rate fell slightly to 4.2 percent, according to the Labor Department’s provisional data. The country’s unemployment rate hasn’t changed much over the past several months, coming in between 4.2 percent and 4.4 percent since April.
As BLS had done with August’s data release, the agency included a special notice on Friday discussing the impact of recent hurricanes that made landfall in the southern parts of the U.S. The agency said that hurricanes Irma and Harvey likely played a role in decreasing the country’s overall job numbers, impacting several industries and contributing to a sharp decline in employment at food and drink outlets.