Law360, New York (January 8, 2016, 12:31 PM ET) -- The legal services sector saw another bump in employment at the end of 2015, adding 1,200 jobs in December, according to a Friday report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, continuing a recent trend of increased hiring.
The total number of seasonally adjusted jobs in the sector added up to 1,128,000 in December, an increase from 1,126,800 in November, a month that also saw a slight increase in hiring with the addition of 200 jobs.
Overall, the national unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged over the past three months, hovering at 5 percent in December, with the addition of 292,000 jobs in nonfarm fields, including business services, construction, health care and food services, according to the report.
The December numbers for the legal sector end a year that saw some significant ups and downs for the industry, but one that saw more hiring overall.
Danielle Goldstone, a senior consultant for international legal recruitment firm Laurence Simons, on Friday linked the pickup in hiring directly to a strengthened economy, but one where legal companies are still looking to cut costs where possible.
“Due to the improving economy, many law firms are adding positions in order to capitalize on new business opportunities,” Goldstone said. “On the in-house side, many legal departments are increasing the number of law jobs so that they can handle more matters in house and this also helps cut costs of using external legal counsel.”
Heading into 2016, Goldstone expects to see more jobs added to the industry, as long as the economy continues its upswing.
“As an overall trend it will continue ... companies will continue to add more legal jobs,” Goldstone said.
She added that areas of compliance and intellectual property are seeing higher rates of growth due to an increase in work for those industries.
Friday’s report comes after a smaller increase of 200 and 700 jobs in November and October, respectively, but September brought a sizeable increase of 3,800 jobs.
However, this came on the heels of 2,000 jobs axed in August, a paltry increase of 200 jobsin July and an earlier decline of 800 jobs in June.
The first half of the year was similarly turbulent for the sector, seeing a small gain of 300 jobsin May and an April swell of 2,300 jobs, which followed March's loss of 1,200, February's increase of 3,100 and January's loss of 1,400.
On a national scale, 7.9 million people remain out of work as of December, but 800,000 jobs were added in 2015, according to the report, although another 6 million workers are involuntarily underemployed, having been forced into part-time work due to hours being cut or full-time jobs being unavailable.
Those with the highest percentage of unemployment are teenagers at 16 percent, black men and women at 8.3 percent and Hispanic men and women at 6.3 percent, according to the report.
--Additional reporting by Dani Meyer and Aebra Coe. Editing by Rebecca Flanagan.