After losing 1,700 jobs in March, 400 more than originally anticipated, the legal sector posted a strong rebound in April, adding 3,900 jobs overall. This continues an overall upward trend in legal employment as 6,900 jobs have been added since this time last year (and 6,000 since July – see chart). The total number of legal jobs has now reached 1,120,900, the highest total in almost 3 years, dating back to June of 2009.
This is certainly encouraging news. Yet it remains an uphill battle when viewed in light of employment levels before the recession. Says Tom Huddleston Jr. in a May 4 article for The Am Law Daily: “While such figures may inspire optimism within the legal industry, they remain below the industry’s prerecession employment highs. In April 2008 the sector employed an estimated 1,166,000—roughly 45,000 more than it does now.”
Huddleston Jr. goes on to note that the U.S. economy as a whole added 115,000 positions for the month, dropping the employment rate from 8.2% to 8.1%, which remains the lowest figure in over three years. However, economists have indicated that these projections fell short of the increases they expected for the month. Moreover, they believe in spite of job gains in both March and April, the increases have been relatively small and representative of “large numbers of workers abandoning the labor force.”
This is just further proof we find ourselves in a time where even good news must be taken with a grain or two of salt.