By Xiumei Dong for Law360.com
After five consecutive months of growth, the legal industry experienced a slight drop in employment in March, with the sector losing about 600 jobs, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Approximately 1,180,900 people were employed in the legal industry last month, a 0.05% decline from the 1,181,500 people employed in February, based on seasonally adjusted numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The drop in job numbers came as the legal industry is experiencing layoffs and other workforce reductions due to various factors, such as cost-cutting measures and shifts in client demands.
Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLPconfirmed Wednesday that it has laid off 10% of its U.S. workforce and may defer incoming associates’ start dates on a case-by-case basis. Kirkland & Ellis LLP has also reportedly cut some associates based on performance, but the firm denied conducting layoffs.
Despite the recent setback, the legal industry has been on a positive trajectory overall, with employment numbers steadily increasing as the sector recovered from the worst of the pandemic-related economic downturn. Looking back one year, approximately 9,900 more people are working in the legal industry than in March 2022, a gain of nearly 0.85%, according to the BLS.
The broader U.S. job market has also continued to experience steady growth, with 236,000 jobs added in March, although that was a slight slowdown compared to the average monthly gain of 334,000 over the prior six months, according to the bureau.
The category of professional and business services, which includes the legal industry, gained approximately 39,000 jobs from February to March, according to the bureau. For the year, employment in the sector increased by 513,000 jobs, settling in at 22,952,000 people.
By sector, gains were highest in leisure and hospitality, government, professional and business services, and health care, while retail shed jobs, according to the bureau’s report.
The unemployment rate for last month ticked back down to 3.5%, near six-decade lows, from 3.6% in February, the report said.