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February 5, 2010 11:51 AM

Legal Sector Loses 1,100 Jobs in January

Posted by Brian Baxter

The U.S. economy continued to hemorrhage jobs in the first month of the 2010, but the overall unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent, according to the latest employment report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While the legal sector lost another 1,100 jobs in January, the number marked a noticeable drop off from previous months.

According to seasonally adjusted BLS data, the legal sector lost 2,100 jobs in December, 2,900 jobs in November, and 5,800 jobs in October. Since January of last year the legal services industry shed 44,700 workers. (Click here for a critique on how the BLS crunches its numbers.)

Despite the news that Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is laying off 20 staffers and reports earlier this week that Howrey would shed 94 employees, including 29 associates, the pace of layoffs seems to have abated. The Business Insider recently noted that firm layoffs were 88 percent lower in January 2010 than they were a year ago.

Another contributing factor to the improved jobs numbers for the legal sector could be that many deferred first-year associates reported to their firms for work in January, thereby offsetting layoffs elsewhere.

The Boston Globe reported on Friday that the better-than-expected year-end financials announced by a trio of Am Law 100 firms was partially due to costs saved from layoffs.

Just how much do firms save from firing employees? Our colleague Leigh Jones from sibling publication The National Law Journal fielded that question in this story last year.

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