Legal Jobs Report: December 2015

An employment summary based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) December 2015 monthly jobs report.

The U.S. economy added 211,000 jobs in November, beating Wall Street’s projection of 200,000 new jobs for the month, according to BLS. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 5 percent, which makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates later this month.

Legal Jobs Report for December 2015 - Chart Showing 211,000 New Jobs Added in November

The government also revised employment gains for October and September to show net gains of 35,000. October’s data, initially recorded at 271,000 jobs, were revised to 298,000. September’s count was revised to 145,000 from 137,000 jobs.

According to ADP’s Dec. 2 employment report, jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics, private payrolls increased 217,000 in November. Significantly, the manufacturing sector rebounded last month—adding 6,000 jobs in November—after two consecutive months of cutting jobs. Growth in manufacturing is seen as key to the creation of higher wage jobs in the U.S., and higher wage jobs lead to more disposable income that can provide more support to the overall economy.

Economists had expected strong job gains for November, in part due to strong hiring from the retail sector as establishments hire more staff for the holiday shopping season. According to a Reuters survey, nonfarm payrolls increased 200,000 in November.

Potential rate hike

The Feds have openly communicated its desire to increase near-zero interest rates for the first time since June 2006. And that may finally happen in mid-December or early 2016. “The data indicate a steady improvement in the labor market that should support the Fed’s confidence that now is the right time to hike rates,” said Thomas Costerg, senior U.S. economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York.

While the Federal Reserve seems to hold the view that the economy is strong enough to support a rate hike, a persistent strong U.S. dollar is causing challenges for American exporters. The record-strong dollar is making American products sold abroad more expensive.

What this means for legal professionals

Legal services is adding few jobs. According to BLS, the industry created just 600 jobs in November.

There were 700 legal jobs added in October, and 4,700 legal jobs added in September. The national workforce of legal professionals now amounts to over 1.25 million people, according to BLS’s breakdown of selected industries. Since the recession, there has been about 45,000 fewer people working in the legal sector.

However, non-traditional jobs such as IT and electronic discovery (eDiscovery) remain in high demand. Employers also want to recruit attorneys who have experience and a proven track record.

The jobs below are estimated to grow at the following rates (between 2012 and 2022), according to BLS:

  • Information governance and security analysts: +37%
  • Paralegals and legal assistants: +17%

What this means for legal employers

Legal employers are facing disruptive changes in the industry. According to multiple surveys, many feel their business model is being threatened by non-traditional service providers. There is growing pressure to add more value to clients while simultaneously controlling or reducing costs. More clients are pushing back on fees, and this is resulting in legal staff being asked to do more with less.

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