After a not-so-wonderful second quarter, the employment picture for the legal field improved in Q3 with—as usual—some groups faring better than others.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that overall legal employment climbed from 1.80 million in Q2 to 1.83 million in Q3, and the average unemployment rate fell from 1.43% to 0.93%, indicating that many of the unemployed in the legal field found legal work in Q3 (or dropped out of the workforce).
There were notable gains in employment by lawyers (1.07 million in Q2 to 1.13 million in Q3) and legal support staff (65,000 in Q2 to 93,000 in Q3). However, the unemployment rate for each of these groups tells a different story.
From Q2 to Q3, lawyer unemployment fell from 1% to 0.1%—the lowest rate in more than a decade. A likely explanation is that most who sought lawyer employment have obtained it, and that few are still looking.
But despite the large employment gain for legal support roles, the unemployment rate stayed at 3.6%, probably because more people sought legal support roles.
Paralegals and title examiners weren’t as lucky.
From Q2 to Q3, the paralegal field shed 28,000 jobs (449,000 to 421,000), and its unemployment rate doubled (1.5% to 3%). Title examiner employment fell 20%—from 122,000 to 98,000.
The fall in employment among paralegals and the major jump in unemployment indicate that while paralegal jobs shrank in Q3, the demand for them increased. Title examiners may have had a tough quarter due to increasing interest rates slowing the pace of real estate transactions—thus lowering the need for title examiners.
Quarterly average employment rates for men and women in the legal field diverged from Q2 to Q3, with employment increasing from 840,000 to 890,000 for men, and falling from 955,000 to 936,000 for women.
Explanations for these findings might be that many unemployed men looking for legal jobs between Q2 to Q3 found them, while many women ended up leaving the legal field over the quarter.
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