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“Labor numbers for August show growth in legal industry But California lost some legal positions in July, according to latest data available”

Monday, September 8, 2014
By Alex Shively
Daily Journal Staff Writer

Employment in the legal industry spiked in August on a national level, reversing the slight downward turn last month, according to statistics released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday.

On the national level there are roughly 3,800 more people employed in the legal industry than there were at this time last year. About 3,300 legal jobs were added in August from July.

After hovering around 1,136,000 jobs for the last 16 months, the legal sector now employs 1,139,900 professionals. This is the highest figure since February 2009, a year in which the industry shed more than 38,000 jobs.

California trended in the opposite direction in the most recent report released by the state’s Employment Development Department in mid-August. The state lost 500 legal jobs in July, while shedding 1,100 jobs over the past 12 months to presently stand at 133,300 total employed.

San Francisco legal recruiter Barbara Levenson said the downward trend in the state numbers could be attributable to staff reduction.

“As more lawyers become more adept at using email and support systems get better,” she said, “the business can afford to let people go.”

While her firm does not recruit outside the state, Levenson said she has heard that the high volume of recent deals has spurred companies to bring on more outside counsel.

“There is the perception,” she said, “that even when you have a great in-house team, you still want to go get advice from outside counsel to see how you can grow your business.”

The larger national economy added 142,000 nonfarm jobs in August, and the unemployment rate remained relatively steady at 6.1 percent, down from 7.2 percent in August 2013.

While the legal sector has held the pace, the larger professional services industry has been improving much more rapidly. Professional services added 47,000 jobs in August, bringing the 12-month total to 639,000 additional jobs.

The most recently released data for all industries in California showed that conditions also improved on the state level, where nonfarm employment rose by 27,700 jobs in July and the state added 323,600 jobs over the previous 12 months.

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