A rosy employment report for the U.S. economy in the first month of 2018 didn’t carry over to the legal services industry, which lost 1,100 jobs in January, according to preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The agency’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a decline in the number of people employed in legal services in January over the prior month. The monthly BLS data release reported that 1,135,500 people worked in the industry in January, which includes lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries, among other law-related professions. That’s down from 1,136,600 people employed in December, according to BLS. The agency’s data for both December and January is seasonally-adjusted, provisional and could be revised.
The BLS release follows on the heels of another recent employment-related report indicating that summer associate hiring was down in 2017 at the largest firms. Recent data from the National Association for Law Placement showed that summer associate class sizes declined at firms with more than 700 lawyers for the first time since 2012.
The January job figures also follow a year that produced some fluctuations in legal sector employment. The total number of legal services jobs had generally remained within the same range—between about 1.12 million and 1.13 million people—for several years running—roughly 50,000 jobs shy of a pre-recession high of nearly 1.18 million jobs in 2007. The numbers released on Friday show figures that exceed the 1.13 million mark, likely due to annual updates for 2018 in how BLS calculates its benchmarks.
The agency noted in its press release on Friday that it has incorporated changes to its reports that include an update to the 2017 North American Industry Classification System, whereas BLS previously used the 2012 version of that classification. “This update resulted in minor changes to several detailed industries,” BLS said on Friday. Under the now-revised approach, historical BLS data show that legal services jobs passed 1.13 million in December 2016 and remained above that level throughout 2017 and into this year.
While January’s legal services job numbers took a dip, employment in the U.S. economy as a whole fared well in January, according to preliminary BLS data. The country added 200,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate remained static at 4.1 percent. That reportedly beat the expectations of economists, who had forecast an increase of 180,000 jobs in January. The overall January figures mark the 88th straight month of job growth in the United States.