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May 5, 2008 8:08 AM

Legal Sector Among Job Losers

Posted by Nate Raymond

The U.S. legal service sector lost 1,700 jobs in April, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics released Friday.

The decline marked two consecutive months of losses for the industry and made up part of the 20,000 jobs lost in the overall market last month. But as in the general job market, losses slowed in April. The month before, the legal service industry lost 2,600 jobs.

Layoffs at large firms, along with tightening throughout the market generally, contributed to the lost jobs last month. Among the largest firms to shrink their payrolls was Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, which asked about 15 associates to leave March 31. Other firms have slowed their hiring, making it harder for lawyers and nonlawyers to find new jobs in the sector.

In total, 1.17 million people, or less than 1 percent of the overall U.S. job market, call themselves legal service employees, including lawyers, paralegals, librarians, and secretaries. Overall, the legal services sector has lost 8,900 jobs since a year ago and 3,300 in the last six months, according to the Labor Department. The statistics are seasonally adjusted. When not adjusted, the department reports 9,700 jobs cut during the last 12 months.

This April, the statistics show, marked a two-and-a-half-year low in employment in the legal service industry. The last time so few people were employed in legal services was during a lull ending in December 2005.

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