New BLS Employment Projections: Only 196,500 New Lawyer Jobs by 2022

Despite the shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics managed to update its employment projections for 2012 to 2022 a tad earlier than I expected. You can find them here.

One bit of good news for the legal profession is that between 2010 and 2012, the BLS estimated some growth in the number of lawyers employed in the U.S., 728,200 in 2010, 759,800 today. It’s about the same as in 2008 (759,200). However, back in 2002, the BLS projected 813,000 lawyer jobs for 2012, so once again, the projections were overoptimistic.

BLS OOH Lawyer Employment Projections

The bad news is that the projected number of employed lawyers in 2022 (834,700) is lower than in previous years, e.g. 857,700 in 2018. Moreover, the job growth rate is declining. In 2020, the BLS projected a total of 212,000 jobs due to growth and replacement. Between 2012 and 2022, the total is 196,500 lawyer positions. Dividing by ten, this means that 19,650 jobs are predicted to be created annually. Despite the law school applicant nosedive, the number of jobs law graduates and lawyers will be competing over appear to be diminishing, mainly due to fewer positions being replaced.

Here’s the master lawyer oversupply and law graduate overproduction chart. The 2000 edition of the Official Guide lists the number of new lawyers, and I supplemented that with National Conference of Bar Examiners data on lawyer licensing (which includes some people who were admitted by examination in more than one jurisdiction, so there’s some overcounting).

Lawyer and Law Graduate Projections (1983-2022)

I’d comment more, but…

I have to give a lecture on college education and student loan debt at the Henry George School of Social Science at 6:30, TONIGHT (i.e. Friday, December 20, 2013). DETAILS HERE.


  1. Matt, love your blog as always. Do you know where one can get the BLS methodology for how they calculate absolute number of persons holding a job? So for lawyers, the numbers went up, by 30k, between 2010-2012. But for physicians, the numbers stayed the same. I wonder how this is, given that there has been a 25% increase in the number of residencies in just the past few years, which should push up the absolute rate by which physicians are being employed.

    On the plus side, the BLS projections are a lot more rational now than in 2010. There will be a glut of pharmacists, as one would predict, and Veterinarians and Optometrists will not be doing so well, nor will computer related occupations.

    The only issue I have is their jobs projections, which seem conservative. Given the current pace of job growth, through 2022 the US should add around 20 million jobs, not 15 million. The only handle I can get on this prospective discrepancy is that there will be another huge recession, which is possible but does not appear likely (the housing market is not going to bubble for a while, and the stock market is more fairly valued than it was in the early 1990s), or technology is going to very quickly come in and unleash torrid amounts of productivity, which will have to happen soon, because right now since 2010, we are on track for worse productivity growth than the average for the 1970s through early 1990s.

    1. Thank you Alex,

      The BLS’s methodology is discussed here.

      Well I’ll be damned, you’re right, there have been only 4,000 new physician and surgeon positions created. We’ll see if their numbers start rising in the future I guess, but if there has been large growth in physicians, the BLS appears to’ve missed it.

      The five million jobs discrepancy may be due to the BLS’s assumption that labor force participation is going to fall, even for young and prime age workers, and not return to pre-Great Recession levels. I have no idea if they factor in productivity.

  2. One still has to read in between the lines with BLS. For instance, I am also a screwed over pharmacy graduate (biggest non-law grad bubble). It does mention the rate of job increase, even denoting it will be higher than average. However, it does not mention that higher than average is depression level in the current economy, that the number of grads (from every increasing schools) will be double the number of jobs created, and how this is the worst outcome for health care workers.

    There was also commotion about the administration ordering BLS to optimistically statistically inflate numbers. I tihnk on some level, BLS relies on academia (for instance pharmacy Man Power Project), which is a highly flawed scheme. Basically, it collects a (probably non representative) sample of employers, and according to their subject opinion, if they have unlimited power to hire and fire at will. All told, the “Man Power Project” denotes a modest oversupply in markets where a pharmacist can only obtain work with credential inflation or nepotism. The BLS is an inadequate marker of job projections.

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