Legal services employment dipped in July as the sector lost 2,100 jobs while the overall U.S. economy added some 157,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 3.9 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In its monthly look over the country’s employment situation, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that 1,137,400 worked in the legal services industry in July— a total that takes account of lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and other law-related professions. The figures BLS released on Friday are provisional, so they could be revised.
July’s results mark a 2,100 job decline from the 1,139,500 people employed in the legal sector in June, according to the BLS release. The June total was revised downward from the agency’s initial report last month, in which provisional data showed 1,141,400 people were employed in legal services.
Still, even with July’s job losses and the downward revision to June’s figures, the legal industry has experienced a net gain of 1,100 jobs over May’s employment figures. The July 2018 numbers also indicate a 2,000 job increase over the same month in 2017, according to BLS.
July’s figures remain within the prevailing range over the past couple of years. Since December 2016, the legal industry has generally employed between 1.13 million and 1.14 million people, according to historical BLS data.
While BLS showed a legal employment dip in July, the agency’s jobs report comes on the heels of positive news for junior lawyers joining the field. As ALM reported Wednesday, the National Association for Law Placement this week released a study showing a “surprisingly strong” job market for 2017 law school graduates. NALP reported that 88.6 percent of 2017 law graduates had found employment, with some 72 percent landing jobs that required them to pass the bar exam within 10 months.
“Barring another economic slowdown or interruption and barring a significant jump in law school enrollment as a result of rising applications, the employment outlook for recent law graduates looks brighter (if not exactly rosy) than it has at any time since 2008, and that is good news,” said NALP executive director James Leipold in a statement about the recent study.
The NALP study followed another indication that younger people might be viewing the legal job market through a positive lens. The Law School Admission Council reported recently that more than 60,400 people applied to law school for the upcoming year, an 8 percent increase over the previous year and the only significant uptick seen since 2010.
The legal services employment numbers released Friday come as the U.S. economy as a whole added 157,000 jobs in July, according to provisional BLS data. That marks the 94th consecutive month of job growth, but also reportedly fell shy of economists’ expectations that the United States would add closer to 190,000 jobs in July.
The country’s unemployment edged downward to 3.9 percent in July from 4 percent in June, while average wages for private, non-farm jobs in the United States increased by seven cents to $27.05 per hour. Over the course of this year so far, average hourly earnings have gone up by 71 cents, BLS reported.