The legal services sector dropped 1,100 jobs in October as the overall U.S. economy posted job gains and a slight edging down in the national unemployment rate, according to preliminary data that the U.S. Department of Labor released Friday.
The Labor Department’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which issues a monthly report on the employment situation in multiple U.S. industries, showed a decline in the number of people employed in legal services in October compared with the prior month. The BLS reported that in October, 1,126,200 people worked in the legal services sector, which includes lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and other law-related occupations.
The seasonally-adjusted October figures are provisional and could be revised. Friday’s release also showed downward revisions in the legal services job figures for September and August—September’s numbers were revised downward by 1,300 jobs from the BLS’ initial report for that month, while August’s numbers were revised downward by 1,000 jobs from the provisional figures issued last month.
October’s employment figures follow reports of staff reductions at large law firms over the past few months. Those reports include a cut of 17 administrative staff confirmed in July by Stoel Rives, a Portland, Oregon-based Am Law 200 firm that said at the time it was embarking on a strategic revamp of its operations.
Hogan Lovells, which was also reducing jobs in the U.K., recently offered voluntary retirement packages to about 400 business staff in the United States. The firm later confirmed that as much as 12 percent of its staff accepted those packages, meaning about 45 employees were impacted, according to the National Law Journal. In September, reports emerged that Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy was offering buyout packages to legal secretaries ahead of the firm’s plan to move its New York office to Hudson Yards, a real estate development on Manhattan’s west side.
Despite some ups and downs this year, the employment figures in the legal services sector have remained within the range that has prevailed over the past several years. Generally, the monthly reports since June 2013 have shown between 1.12 million people and 1.13 million people employed in the legal industry—a range that’s about 50,000 jobs fewer than the pre-recession high in 2007.
Although the legal industry’s job numbers were down in October, Friday’s employment figures showed job growth overall in the U.S. economy—something economists reportedly attribute to a bounce back from a slump in September caused in part by people falling off payrolls in the wake of hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida.
The country’s overall economy gained 261,000 jobs, according to the preliminary BLS data, while the unemployment rate of 4.1 percent marked a 0.7 percent reduction since January. The number of unemployed Americans has dropped by 1.1 million over that same period.