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Farmers aside, one out of every 33 new jobs last month went to someone in the legal industry.

By Scott Flaherty | March 08, 2019 at 02:36 PM

Photo: Shutterstock.com

As job gains remained nearly flat across the U.S. economy, the legal services industry added 600 jobs in February—one out of every 33 new non-farm jobs last month—continuing a trend of moderate gains and losses for the industry over the last several months, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The federal agency’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that 1,142,700 people worked in the legal sector in February, a figure that includes lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries and other professions related to the law. The BLS data is provisional, meaning it could be revised later, and it is seasonally adjusted.

Also Friday, BLS updated its count of people working in legal services in the two months leading up to February. In the agency’s last monthly employment report, released in early February, it showed that the legal sector employed 1,140,100 people in both January and December. On Friday, however, BLS changed those figures—January’s results grew by 2,000 jobs, while December’s results were revised downward by 200 jobs.

February’s total for legal jobs marks a roughly 0.05 percent increase over the prior month’s results. Meanwhile, the overall U.S. economy—which continued a more than eight-year streak of adding jobs each month—posted an even smaller percent increase. The full economy added 20,000 non-farm jobs in February, an uptick of just more than 0.01 percent compared with January’s results, according to the provisional BLS data.

In the legal industry, February’s report remains generally in line with the results over the past few years. The sector’s job numbers have fluctuated, but the industry has employed more than 1.13 million in every month since December 2016.

During most of 2018, and now continuing into 2019, the figure has been close to or slightly above 1.14 million people employed in legal services. Even at 1.14 million people, however, the legal sector employs some 30,000-to-40,000 fewer people now than it did during a pre-recession high point in 2007, according to historic BLS data.

For the broader economy, the February BLS jobs report fell far short of expectations. According to The Wall Street Journal’s poll of Wall Street economists ahead of the monthly jobs report, they anticipated the U.S. to add closer to 180,000 jobs in February.

Despite the relatively flat results in February, job growth overall has trending upward. In January, for instance, the country added more than 300,000 new jobs, according to BLS data.

Other employment indicators were positive in February. The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in February after coming in at 4 percent in January. Average hourly wages for non-farm workers rose by 11 cents in February to $27.66 per hour after a two cent gain in January, according to BLS. Average hourly wages have increased 3.4 percent over the level of a year ago, in February 2018.