Legal Jobs Report: November 2015

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

The overall U.S. economy may have exceeded expectations in October, but the legal industry (not including IT-related functions) only added a minimal number of jobs. The economy added 271,000 jobs, beating Wall Street’s expectation of 180,000, BLS announced on November 6.

Legal Jobs Report for November 2015 - Chart Showing 271,000 New Jobs Added in October

That’s a big increase over last month’s weaker-than-expected 142,000 new jobs. Employers laid off plenty of seasonal workers at the end of summer, which led to dismal employment figures for August and September. However, many economists anticipated an increase in hiring close to the holiday season as retailers need temp workers for a busy two-three month period.

In this month’s jobs report, BLS revised August’s and September’s employment gains to add 12,000 jobs for each month. The unemployment rate remains unchanged at 5 percent, but the civilian labor force participation rate was also unchanged at 62.4 percent.

Jobs in legal

The legal sector gained only 700 jobs in October, compared to 4,700 new jobs in September. The national workforce of legal professionals now amounts to over 1.25 million people, according to BLS’s breakdown of selected industries.

The uptick marks the highest level of employment in the legal industry this year, at 1,125,800 people, or about 7,000 more than the same time in 2014. Since the recession, there’s still about 45,000 fewer people working in the legal sector.

However, non-traditional legal jobs, IT and electronic discovery (eDiscovery) remain high growth areas in a profession that’s embracing the realities of the digital age. Also, more information—and potential evidence—must be searched for and found through digital footprints which requires the expertise mentioned above.

What this means for legal job candidates

Here are the estimated growth rates (between 2012 and 2022) for the following jobs, according to BLS:

  • Information governance and security analysts: +37%
  • Paralegals and legal assistants: +17%
  • Secretaries and administrative assistants: +12%
  • Lawyers: +10%

Job seekers can differentiate themselves by acquiring training, credentials, certifications and experience in information technology, data security, eDiscovery and related areas.

What this means for employers

Law school enrollment continues to dip nationwide (after peaking in 2010), and many employers are seeking experienced attorneys instead of fresh graduates. The preference towards IT skills reflects the legal profession’s move away from paper-based practices and towards streamlined, digital processes—and the need for employees with technical skills to match.

To get up-to-date salaries in key markets, check out Special Counsel’s 2016 Salary Guide. Compensation figures are broken down by job title and local markets.

Other BLS data

According to BLS’s most recent data, most of the employment gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and construction.

  • Professional and business services: +78,000
  • Healthcare: +45,000
  • Retail trade: +44,000
  • Food services and drinking places: +42,000

And here’s a breakdown of the unemployment rates for major worker groups:

  • Adult men: 4.7 percent
  • Adult women: 4.5 percent
  • Teenagers: 15.9 percent
  • Whites: 4.4 percent
  • Blacks: 9.2 percent
  • Asians: 3.5 percent
  • Hispanics: 6.3 percent

For other workplace insights, visit

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